THE TREE OF LIFE (2011)

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Christopher

I wasn’t sure if I would ever watch this because ever since knowing Elizabeth I have known that she hated this movie. It seemed like us watching it just wasn’t going to happen. For whatever reason the other week she told me to get it cause she was ready to write about it. I was so excited and knew I had to jump on this chance.

When this movie came out I know it created a lot of controversy and a ton of people hated it. I actually saw the last 30 minutes one time when I first moved to San Antonio but it made no sense so nothing really stuck in my memory. Watching the movie now, the last 30 minutes not making sense makes sense because that’s how the whole movie really is.

The way I looked at the film was that it really isn’t a movie. It felt more like someone was trying to film their emotion? I felt a connection to a bunch of the themes of the movie but there was nothing really to follow, just stuff to watch.

I thought all the scenes with the universe and the dinosaurs were the absolute worst part of the whole thing. I had heard all that was in the movie but the dinosaurs looked so terrible it was really off-putting. It felt like we were watching something on PBS. I did, however, enjoy some of the stuff in the Brad Pitt/Jessica Chastain moments but that was all because it was basically just following a bunch of boys around their neighborhood. It felt so American. Now, there still really isn’t much to go on here but a ton of it reminded me of myself growing up. It also kind of reminded me of the boys from The Virgin Suicides and that neighborhood. If this part of the movie had more context and an actual story to follow I think I would of been super into it. Unfortunately what I did connect to is such a small part of this film that just rambles. It reminded me of being in a conversation with someone I didn’t want to talk to but didn’t know how to get away from.

I’m glad I finally saw this but I know it’s not something I’ll see again. The next Terrence Malick movie we watch I hope is The New World. I know people didn’t like it but I watched that after college and I really enjoyed it.

Elizabeth

FUCK THIS PIECE OF SHIT. CALLING THIS THING A MOVIE IS INSULTING TO EVERY ACTUAL MOVIE EVER MADE AND I AM 100% INCLUDING TYLER PERRY MOVIES IN THAT STATEMENT.

THE ONLY WAY THIS THING WOULD WORK WOULD BE IF IT WAS TERRENCE MALICK TESTING HOW FAR VIEWERS’ PRETENTIOUSNESS WILL TAKE THEM AS A STATEMENT ABOUT “ART” CINEMA BUT HE DID NOT DO THAT.

I HATE THIS THING.

 

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DREAM HOUSE (2011)

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Christopher (spoilers!)

I really thought I had heard this movie was good but it was clear from the beginning that I must have been thinking of a different film. This movie was a giant mess. The story was overly complicated. Not really confusing, just complicated, and really didn’t work the way I think the original idea of this movie must of looked.

The most distracting part of this film is Daniel Craig. I believe in this film he’s supposed to be an American, but he rarely has any kind of American accent in this movie. I’m always curious about stuff like this because if Daniel Craig cannot do an American accent, why make him American? In this film he plays a father, family man, neighbor. There is nothing in the story that requires him to be from the states. I feel like it would have been a far better choice to just have him British and have the back story be that he met the wife overseas in college or something. This movie was so terrible this is really the only thing I have to talk about it.

OHHHH yeaa, SPOLIERS!!

But also, this did exactly what Non-Stop did and had a bad guy show up within the first few minutes without the protagonist knowing. Movies need to get over this fad; it’s way too easy to spot.

Elizabeth (spoilers)

OH GOOD! Another movie where everyone turns out to be ghosts and we saw the killer in the beginning!! GLAD THIS WASN’T A WASTE OF TIME AT ALL!!!

HOT COFFEE (2011)

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Elizabeth

I was around 7 years old when the McDonald’s “hot coffee” case became famous. The way I remembered it, an old woman spilled super hot coffee on her lap, sued McDonald’s, and won millions of dollars. I never really thought that much about it and I definitely never thought it was stupid. I guess I imagined that if someone burned themselves badly enough to sue, then it must have been worth it. I think at that age, too, I also thought that if a group of adults (like the court) agreed with the woman, then it was probably correct either way.

Hot Coffee focuses on four different stories on different areas of tort reform, focusing first on Stella Liebeck’s lawsuit against McDonald’s for the coffee. I loved the way the documentary went about telling this story: first they ask a bunch of people what they know about the case, then explain what really happened. Every person they talked to was wrong on some level, usually in major ways. There was a lot of talk of “this old woman spilled coffee in her lap while she was driving and sued McDonalds for millions and millions” kind of stuff. But the documentary quickly points out that all of these ideas about the case have come directly from how the case has been portrayed in the media, not the case itself. Because, to me, the facts make a lot more sense. Stella Liebeck was 79 when she spilled the coffee and was not driving. In fact, she wasn’t even in a moving car; her grandson (who was driving) pulled into a parking space so they could get their orders all organized. Liebeck was taking the lid off the coffee to put cream and sugar in when the cup essentially collapsed and spilled the coffee on her. She had third degree burns that required multiple skin grafts and surgeries and never fully recovered. But then there’s the coffee itself. Per McDonald’s requirements, the coffee was kept at a holding temperature of between 180-190 degrees, hot enough to immediately cause third degree burns on your throat if you drank it. And then on top of that, there’s the suit itself. This is where I was majorly wrong: Liebeck didn’t get millions and millions of dollars from McDonald’s. She won $640,000.

The second story is about a couple and their twin sons. One son was born severely brain damaged from lack of oxygen to his brain, which his mother suspected when she could feel the babies moving less in the days before they were born. Her doctor told her everthing was fine and as a result, one of the twins will need 24/7 care for the rest of his life. They successfully sued the doctor (who had been sued before) for a pretty large amount of money, which was figured out to cover the son’s cost of living for the rest of his life. Instead of that amount, though, they got just barely over $1 million because of a law in their state that puts caps on settlements.

The third story focuses on a former Supreme Court Justice from Mississippi, Oliver Diaz, who was the one political holdout that was against tort reform. He was falsely charged with bribery and all of the procedures involving that kept him out of the office for three years, effectively making him useless as a judge, which is exactly what the big companies that are pro-tort reform wanted.

The third story is on Jamie Leigh Jones, a former Halliburton employee who accused her co-workers of drugging and brutally gang-raping her, before she was locked in a shipping container guarded by an armed guard by her employers after she reported the rape. She could not bring any charges to court because of this arbitrition thing she signed when she was first hired. The arbitrition takes away the possibility of your case being seen or heard by a judge or jury, which seems like it just shouldn’t be legal.

The world of tort reform is huge and one that I knew nothing about before this documentary. That happens so often with good documentaries; they bring you into this world that you probably didn’t even know existed before and shows you just how deep the rabbit hole goes. Parts of Hot Coffee are overwhelming, like how crazy and scary Jones’ situation was. Other parts are sort of boring as there’s a lot of courtroom talk. But overall, the movie did a really great job of making something that seems vague and hard to understand seem very real.

Christopher

I wasn’t into the idea of watching this movie because I thought most of it would go over my head and that I wouldn’t really care. However, watching it, the film gave me a clear understanding of many famous court cases where individuals sued corporations. The biggest example was the lady who sued McDonald’s for serving coffee that was too hot. I still don’t think I know enough on the subject to talk much about it but I think if you are interested in the subject this movie is completely worth watching.

COURAGEOUS (2011)

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Elizabeth

Here is how the very self-righteously titled Courageous begins: Nathan Hayes (Ken Bevel) stops at a gas station. After filling his tank, he realizes he wants to wash his windshield. He’s already turned the car back on, but walks over to another pump several yards away to find a squeegee . . . with his door open. The entire time he’s there, there’s a very stereotypically gangster-looking guy, lurking behind him. So naturally, when Nathan leaves his giant truck running with the door wide open and completely walks away from it, the gangster guy immediately jumps in and drives off in it. But alas! Nathan chases him down, jumps on the truck and hangs onto the driver’s side door. Eventually he messes with the carjacker enough to cause him to drive off the road, flinging Nathan off. The carjacker’s partner was apparently following them the whole time, because he immediately pulls up behind him and drives off with the carjacker in tow. As a couple of female bystanders (one with a giant cross on) come to help him and tell him not to worry about his truck as he crawls over to it (MEN, AMIRIGHT???), he opens the back door and we see a screaming baby in its carseat.

How courageous are you if you risk your life (by jumping onto the side of a moving truck) to save your child . . . because you walked away from your running car, with its door open, with said child inside, leading to said car getting stolen in the first place? To me that does not make you courageous, but rather a shitty person and a really shitty parent, and also just really fucking stupid.

So that’s actually a pretty good way for Courageous to start because even though the first scene only focuses on Nathan, it gives a pretty good feel for the rest of the movie. Because we soon find out that not only is Nathan a shitty person and a shitty parent – but he’s a shitty cop, too! Yes, a police officer left his baby in his running, door-open car. And he is courageous.

Anyway, so this is about Christian cops. At some kind of cop meeting, the cop boss tells the cops that they, especially fathers, should spend more time with their families because “research” says that being raised without a father present leads to crime. Good discovery! We meet Adam (Alex Kendrick – hilariously also the director) who continues our time-honored tradition of seeing movies with characters who hate their children. Or I guess I should rephrase: Adam only hates his son, he just kind of doesn’t care about his daughter. What makes me say this? Adam comes home from work to his wife, who’s angry. We find out she’s angry because Adam missed Emily (daughter)’s recital – which was that night – which Adam completely forgot about, even though apparently it was a really big deal. And then we find out why Adam hates his son, Dylan: “All he wants to do is run five miles and play video games.” ALL HE WANTS TO DO IS RUN FIVE MILES AND PLAY VIDEO GAMES?? What kind of critique of a teenager is that? He sounds super well-rounded to me. And not only that, Adam is pissed because Dylan keeps wanting to do a father-son 5k with him. Sooooo, you have a son that is desperate to spend time with you, is athletic, but also enjoys video games . . . and you don’t like him because of that? What the fuck? HOW COURAGEOUS?

We also meet David (Ben Davies) whose main characteristic is that he’s stupid, and Shane (Kevin Downes) who’s just kind of a dude (for now). But then we meet one of my favorites . . . Javier (Robert Amaya). Javier has such a comically bad Mexican accent that I looked up Amaya just to confirm that he’s actually Hispanic. Javier also has such a comically pathetic life when we first see him that it’s sort of hard to get behind him. He’s a construction worker who unexpectedly comes home early after getting laid off. His wife, who is of course named Carmen, freaks out and asks Javier why he didn’t have his boss call her. What? She also reminds him that Marcos, their son, needs shoes and all they have for food is beans and rice. Javier hands Carmen $300 (which maybe it’s because I’m not raising a family but that seemed like a lot? Or at least plenty for kids’ shoes and some food) and says he’s going to go look for work – but he refuses to take the car because he won’t let his family walk. He looks like shit (since he just came from that construction job), but decides he’ll just walk out of the house and wander around looking for a job? Because of their food problem, when Javier asks Carmen for a lunch he could take with him, she hands him A TORTILLA. A SINGLE TORTILLA. One of my favorite moments in the whole movie.

There’s a crazy scene that I think is supposed to prove that these guys are not just good cops, but cool cops, except it fails so spectactularly at that that it seems like a weird parody of itself. All of our main cop friends are going after some drug dealers, so they go to a house where they suspect the drug dealers will be. Shane and Adam go inside while David and Nathan keep watch outside . . . except for the fact that David stands with his back to the door of the house the entire time – and then appears shocked when he’s inevitably tackled by one of the drug dealers running out of the house . . . which he didn’t see coming . . . because he had his back to the door. Shane and Adam don’t look in the rooms of the house; instead they go straight to the attic, assuming the drug dealers are hiding there. Wouldn’t you maybe check open rooms, and then check the one room that’s closed off, just to be safe? Because maybe the drug dealers aren’t in the attic like you are for some reason assuming and are going to be able to run out of the house without you reaching them and without your co-worker stoppping them because HIS BACK IS TO THE FUCKING DOOR?? So then the cops have to chase the drug dealers, both on foot and by car, even though David literally does nothing except drive around because he only knows street names – something new guy Nathan apparently knows really well somehow. Then there’s an amazing part in which Adam is driving with Nathan in the passenger seat, and one of them says “Slingshot?” as if that is a totally universal cop thing, considering Nathan is new, they both agree, and Adam does some crazy car thing that involves turning the car really fast so Nathan can roll out of the moving car or something. It’s crazy and it’s hilarious how unnecessary it is.

Eventually, God sends Javier work . . . HAHA oh wait, that’s not what happened. Javier is walking down a residential street, looking for work, because that’s where you go to find construction work. Turns out he’s on Adam’s street, and when Adam sees Javier, he calls his name. Confused, Javier walks over. To make a way too long story short, Adam hired some guy he never met named Javier to help him build something, the real Javier never showed and lo and behold there was our Javier walking down the street, so Adam hires him. He also eventually recommends Javier for a sweet full-time job, thus essentially solving all of Javier’s problems. Thanks, God! I mean miscommunication/Adam!

Geez, I’ve already talked to long about this movie. Other crazy shit happens: Emily is killed by a drunk driver, causing Adam to start liking Dylan again. Nathan gives his teenage daughter a purity ring after she’s asked out by an older boy – who later joined a gang – which she is supposed to wear until it’s replaced by a wedding ring. So I guess it’s not weird that her dad wants her to wear a ring he gave her on her wedding ring finger, which she will presumably wear while trying to date and have sex, until she actually gets married. What if she doesn’t want to get married? Or what if she’s gay and still lives in who-the-fuck-cares Georgia? Oh well! Emily’s death and the realization that he has another child causes Adam to write up a resolution about being a good father that he got out of the bible somehow, and all of the men have a weird ceremony during church for it. Javier is put in a tight situation where his boss basically wants him to steal so he can get promoted, but against his wife’s wishes he goes with his heart and tells his boss he can’t do that . . . only to discover it was a test! And he was the only one that passed! So he got promoted! Does this shit actually happen in real life? What the fuck. Adam discovers Mitchell is stealing drugs and selling them on the street for profit. He goes to jail, and the other guys act like the resolution they signed was a huge fucking success – even though 1/5 of the men are now in prison for stealing drugs and will not be able to raise their child. COOOOOOL!!!!!

This movie is a fucking piece of shit, jesus christ. Literally.

Christopher

The best thing about this movie is how it’s specifically made to make men proud to be God-serving fathers. It’s full of crazy action, death, and a gang member seeking revenge. Unfortunately, nothing about these characters really make you want to change anything about your life. Other than to be nothing like them.

One father hates his kids, another doesn’t think twice about leaving his child alone in a running car and one of them might be evil? We first heard about this movie from a trailer in front of Heaven is for Real and I have to say it was very worth watching. If you enjoy watching crazy Christian films this should be at the top of your list. The best thing about these movies is that there is so much to make fun of that doesn’t even include religion. I think it’s a film for everyone.

 

BOBBY FISCHER AGAINST THE WORLD (2011)

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Elizabeth

What appealed to me about Bobby Fischer Against the World was that it was on a subject I knew nothing about. I don’t know how to play chess and I don’t really know anything about it and I only knew the most very basic of facts about Bobby Fischer. And it really was great learning about him and seeing all the awesome archival footage. But, I did not think Bobby Fischer Against the World was good.

I think the biggest flaw was the movie’s lack of perspective and criticism of both chess and Bobby Fischer. If you were an alien watching this movie, you would think chess players are the most respected, talented, and worshiped people on the planet. But here’s what Bobby Fischer Against the World fails at highlighting: chess is a board game. That’s it. I’m not saying it’s an easy board game and I’m not saying that you don’t have to be a genius to master it. But nothing changes the fact that it is just a goddamn board game. Everyone talked so pretentiously about chess and what an untouchable figure Bobby Fischer was that you would think it would have some greater impact, but no, again, it’s just a game. Now I understand that it’s important, sometimes the most important thing, to a lot of these people that were interviewed. And that’s all well and good. But the documentary totally failed at giving any outside perspective. What did non-chess players think of Bobby Fischer? They emphasize how important he was in America, yet they pretty much only talk to other famous chess players who knew him personally. I find it hard to believe that there was a huge chess craze at some point in this country with no other evidence than someone who was already obsessed with chess saying that there was one. Maybe it’s true, but since I’m only going by what was presented here, I don’t buy it.

One of my favorite documentaries is King of Kong, about various Donkey Kong tournaments and the drama surrounding it all. King of Kong handles its subject delicately; it makes fun of the fact that all of the subjects are obsessed with archaic arcade games while still being very sensitive and empathetic to them. Yeah, it’s goofy that the whole thing is about Donkey Kong, but that doesn’t make the subjects’ struggle any less legitimate. Because Bobby Fischer Against the World never even really acknowledged that chess was even a game, it really lacked that kind of perspective, and was obviously devoid of all humor.

Bobby Fischer seems extremely interesting and probably pretty crazy. I would like to know more about him, and although the archival footage was so great here, I would really prefer to see something that was just about Bobby Fischer, rather than something that worshiped him.

Christopher

I LOVED WATCHING THIS!!!! Now, I don’t think the movie is very good; it’s very one-sided and never criticized this really not nice guy, however, I found it insanely interesting. I love chess. I’m not very good at it but I enjoy playing. I knew Bobby Fischer was a great chess player, I did watch that Hollywood movie Searching for Bobby Fischer, but I think because of that movie I just assumed Bobby Fischer had died a while ago. I didn’t know how just insane he was and how he didn’t live in America anymore. But all that wasn’t very interesting, it was just sad. I loved all the crazy chess shit! What a crazy weird world. I love finding stuff like that in real life.

SOLO POST – PARADISE LOST: THE CHILD MURDERS AT ROBIN HOOD HILLS (1996) / PARADISE LOST 2: REVELATIONS (2000) / PARADISE LOST 3: PURGATORY (2011) / WEST OF MEMPHIS (2012)

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Elizabeth

Recently, Chris was out of town for about 2 weeks. During my time without him I thought it would be good to watch stuff I wanted to see but knew Chris wouldn’t be interested in. The first day I was alone without him, I scrolled through my queue of movies and found Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills, which I had heard about only because it was on a list of Louis Theroux’s favorite documentaries. Not that it’s a subject I enjoy, but anything with “child murders” in the title I knew would be a no-go for Chris. So I started watching it with literally no idea as to what it was about, except child murders. So I really had no idea I was about to go down this crazy rabbit hole that would lead me to three additional documentaries and knowledge that is both empowering and terrifying.

All four of these documentaries are about The West Memphis 3 and the murders that began everything. In 1993, three boys were raped and murdered; one had been castrated. This happened in West Memphis, Arkansas, which maybe is not the most forward-thinking place around. The cops immediately focused in on Damien Echols, who was 18 when they arrested him. They zeroed in on him because the cops immediately thought it was a Satanic killing, due to the boys  being raped and tied up and what appeared to be their clothes wrapped around sticks placed in the mud. The cops contacted the local juvenile detention center cop and asked if he knew of any kids who might be into Satanic stuff and he immediately thought of Echols, who had had run-ins for shoplifting, who wore black clothing and listened to heavy metal music. Jason Baldwin, 16, was his best friend and Jessie Misskelley, 17, was their sometimes hangout buddy. They questioned Misskelley, who is also mildly retarded, for 12 hours without any of his family members present. They only recorded the last 45 minutes, where Misskelley confesses to being there when Echols and Baldwin kill the kids. But the confession doesn’t make sense with what happened and he mostly just agrees and repeats what the cops tell him. The cops arrested all three and sentenced Misskelley to life plus forty years, even though his entire wrestling team testified to Misskelley being a town away at a wrestling match, at which Misskelley also signed and dated a sign-in sheet for. Echols was convicted and sentenced to death by lethal injection; Baldwin was convicted and sentenced to life without parole. This was also despite sworn alibis and lack of any physical evidence.

So when I finished the first Paradise Lost, I knew it ended in the mid-90s and I immediately needed to know what happened. I couldn’t believe I had never heard of all of this before. It was so scary to think of these three kids being killed and three other kids being put in prison, one sentenced to death, for something they clearly didn’t do.

Over the course of the next two Paradise Lost movies, they explore possible other suspects and the convicteds’ constant efforts to appeal their sentences. This seems like it should get easier as more and more DNA exonerates them from being anywhere near the crime, but a lot of political and legal red tape keeps getting in the way (like the original trial judge being the only judge to see these appeals and he’s the only one who can allow a new judge to take over). In the end of the Paradise Lost movies, we never find the killer but the convicted are finally freed based on something bizarre called the Alford Plea in which they maintain their innocence but plead guilty and the judge lets them out based on time served. Even though the judge gave a heartfelt speech at the end in which he acknowledged the legal system had completely failed these men, it did little to hide the fact that Arkansas just couldn’t man up and admit that they falsely convicted and imprisoned these men.

A few days after I finished the trilogy, I watched West of Memphis, which is the most recent and is separate from the Paradise Lost trilogy. It was really long, but was also really comprehensive. It also had the most updated information and the hindsight to go with it. They revealed how the defense was able to raise money to hire awesome experts and DNA analysis that further exonerated them but also pointed more and more to one of the victims’ stepfathers. The passing of time also lets this documentary explain that they’ve since found out that the boys were not in fact raped and the one boy was not in fact castrated and all of the crazy injuries everyone thought were ritualistic, like the castration, was caused post-mortem by animals. So in a way, even though these boys still died horribly, it’s slightly less horrible than everyone originally thought. They also did a really good job at explaining all the Alford Plea craziness.

This story is downright insane from every angle, and totally horrifying and scary from every angle. I know there’s a movie about it out now, Devil’s Knot, but these documentaries are so incredible everyone should watch these instead. And I will say I found West of Memphis to be significantly less brutal and probably more focused. But these are stories people definitely should know about.

GEORGE HARRISON: LIVING IN THE MATERIAL WORLD (2011)

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Christopher

After we watched the Martin Scorsese-directed documentary No Direction Home we had agreed that we would watch this film as well. I wasn’t expecting to like it as much as I did but now I’m glad; I always thought George Harrison was my favorite Beatle. He seemed so genuine and kind, it was nice to see. I also wasn’t expecting John Lennon to seem so evil! I thought he was supposed to be so hippie and carefree. Now I kind of want to watch something on him.

Elizabeth has mentioned reading the giant Beatles biography book, this movie has me thinking it would be a good idea to try to get through it as well. I also thought it was nice that this movie went through his whole life. I love the Bob Dylan documentary so much but it only covers a small part of his career.

Watch this if you haven’t seen it. If nothing else it’s just a good documentary.

Elizabeth

I saw this when it first came out and I absolutely loved it. George Harrison was always my favorite Beatle; the George Harrison poster I regularly kissed in my elementary school bedroom can vouch for that.

What’s great about George Harrison: Living in the Material World is that it doesn’t tell you about every little thing that happened in George Harrison’s life. It focuses mostly on his career and spirituality, and its that spirituality that I thought was the most interesting to learn about. As someone who’s not religious myself, the way George Harrison viewed religion and spirituality still makes a lot of sense to me. I also just love hearing about the kind of life he had; it pretty much seems that once the Beatles ended and he was insanely rich, he spent the rest of his life just doing what he wanted, whether that was his solo career or raising his son. I just feel like that’s so perfect, to be so successful at making such great art that you get to retire early and do whatever you want, including make more art, and I love that that was George Harrison’s experience.