Quick Documentary Reviews

I love true crime documentaries. I was always one of those kids who would get stuck on crimelibrary.com for hours in the middle of the night. That's probably super weird but it's hard to look away from the massive fuck up that is the criminal justice system sometimes. Over the past few weeks I've watched three docs about crimes or the prison system in general. I decided to share them all in one post.

13th (watched on Netflix Instant)

This is a documentary I expect to see on a lot of "best of" shortlists. I think it will rightly snag an Oscar nomination too. 13th follows the prison system in the United States and how it's unfairly structured to affect black men and women the most. It takes it's title from our 13th amendment. “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” 

There are some very alarming stats in this doc, and they keep getting worse. I think many could tell you in broad strokes why the prison system is unfair, but this film will give you the specifics. It's one everyone should watch. It gives off a somewhat helpless feeling though. How does this get fixed for good and will the United States ever drop their prison population significantly? (The US has 5% of the world's population, but 25% of the prison population)
Grade: A

Southwest of Salem (watched on Youtube)

I had never heard of this case until Candice reviewed the documentary a while ago. This is so completely batshit that I'm shocked I never came across it in all those hours of mindless somebody hug me true crime reading. In 1994 four women in San Antonio, TX were accused of gang raping two young girls They were all lesbians and their trial sat on "this is what lesbians do." They were sent to prison for 15+ years, and only recently exonerated of the crimes after they went to a new trial and one of the victims recanted.  

The sad thing is even after they were paroled they had a judge tell them they couldn't fully clear them of the crime and needed to go through an entire new trial. The bias was still there, just not as strong. Since it was the early 90's, the prosecutor even threw in a little satanic panic for good measure. I wish they would've included a bit more information on the court cases but the doc was very solid.
Grade: B

Who Took Johnny? (watched on Netflix Instant)

This I was familiar with prior. I've read plenty of missing children cold cases. Johnny Gosch is an interesting (ie: depressing) case because the police department seemingly did fuck all to try to find him even after 1) People reported seeing a suspicious car near him 2) He had no reason to run away. 3) Another paperboy was taken two years later under similar circumstances 4) Someone confessed to helping kidnap him and being involved in a huge human trafficking ring. That last guy they never interviewed by the way. They talked to his siblings or something instead.

This doc is probably best for those who have never or vaguely heard of Johnny and his case. For those who have, it doesn't offer much new. In fact, they went pretty easy on the police department. They didn't go into much detail about the human trafficking ring either, but someone did write a book about that. Noreen Gosch is hard to watch. I think she was given some seriously bad advice on how to handle some of her claims after the kidnapping, and the police department labeled her as "pushy." (wouldn't you be if your son was missing and you were told to wait 72 hours to report it?)
Grade: B-

Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (watched on Netflix instant) 

Okay, so no one got murdered or kidnapped, but there's lots of fraud going on. Kevin raved about this doc when we did Drew's Four Years a Best Picture project. I've had it in my queue ever since. I was a young teenager when this Enron fiasco was going on and it's something I never would've paid attention to back then. In a way, I was learning about Enron for the first time. I just knew they were a big company that went under. It's very by the books, interesting interviews, nice songs and transition clips. I think I could've actually watched more of it, it was so interesting. Anything about money kind of depresses me sometimes. Especially watching these execs get huge amounts of it while screwing over everyone else. In retrospect, I'm kind of shocked Enron went on so long operating the way it did.
Grade: A-

Review: Moana (and musings on the Animated Oscar)

It calls me.

I don't review the children's movies I see too often, but I had planned on seeing and reviewing Hacksaw Ridge and those plans got ruined so here we are.

Luckily, Moana is a wonderful animated film.. Moana (Auli'i Cravalho) is the daughter of the chief and has always been drawn to the sea. However no one ever leaves her island, they're realitively safe. But when their crops start dying and the fish run out, Moana takes a chance to leave her island and find the demigod Maui (Dwayne Johnson) who stole the heart of Te Fiti long ago and is responsible for the woes of her homeland. 

The Oscar race is interesting this year. We had a strong year for animation. Zootopia is rightfully the front runner at the moment. With foreign films like The Red Turtle and My Life as a Zucchini also likely to get in. That leaves a few other strong American releases. Kubo and the Two Strings, while lacking in story has the most stunning animation this year, I think they're sure to get in. I assumed the fifth spot would go to crowd favorite Finding Dory, but after seeing this, I'm not so sure. Moana certainly has it beat in the animation department. In fact, it might even rival Kubo at times. Story wise, I think Dory has the edge, but this story is still a good one. (better than Kubo's too) Cravalho's voice is lovely and I'm a huge sucker for The Rock. This guy has been electrifying screens (heh) since he was a wrestler and they're perfectly cast in their parts.

"How Far I'll Go" currently beat "Drive it Like You Stole it" as my favorite song from a family so far this year. I've had it in my head all day. Moana also has something that I'm going to try to mentally picture as a coping skill from now on: a screaming rooster. I've talked about how becoming a mother as turned me into a baby back bitch during movies. I had the water works set and ready to go during this, then they cut to a scene of the dumb rooster completely losing his shit. Perfect save! I loved that.

Grade: A

Memorable Quote: "That water is mischievous, I like how it misbehaves."  - Grandma Tala (Rachel House)

Rambling TV: Thoughts on Westworld, Agents of SHIELD, TWD + more

Agents of SHIELD

Network TV schedules are awful. AoS has been on a three week break, and next week is their midseason finale. This break really hurt the show because there was a good portion of this episode where I completely forgot what they were doing. They had no recap before the episode. The fact that AoS also suffers from what I like to call; Generic Brunette White Guy Castingmeans I wasn't 100% sure if I was looking at the new director or not. It was hard to get into.

Luckily this episode provided a lot of great moments for Fitz and Simmons. When Coulson, Fitz, and Robbie were caught in the explosion, it reminded me of Stranger Things and the upside down. Mack also briefly became Ghost Rider in a pretty cool scene. Unfortunately they're amping up Daisy for the finale, and we all know my feelings about her...ugh.


Where do I even start with this episode? I suppose I should start with "Bravo." Westworld had a hell of a first season and this (rightfully, unlike TWD) 90 minute finale was really a game changer.

So the final big theory was confirmed; that William is the Man in Black. RIP Willores. I like to take credit for that name, by the way. "Willores" was something I suggested in a random tumblr poll and people seemed to roll with it. Then Jimmi Simpson tweeted it today too. I'm going to miss him by the way, that adorable cinnamon roll.

Seeing MIB rough up Dolores was hard. It was hard when we first saw it in the barn, but the way he talked to her made it seem like he's probably done that and had his way with her plenty of times before as he's looked for the maze. It's sad to see something so sweet turn so sour. 

Poor Felix, this dude just got himself in so much shit. The sequence when they're fighting off security was great. (Also, Westworld has the worst security) I also love how Mauve, when Bernard tells her she was just given a new narrative refuses to believe him. It gives her final scene so much more weight.

Speaking of weight, there were a lot of emotionally heavy moments. Learning that Arnold asked Dolores to kill him because he wanted to see his son again. Mauve saying "Goodbye, my Clementine." If I hadn't cried in Moana earlier today I could've teared up there.

I was half expecting Ford to give his best Wolf of Wall Street "I AIN'T GOING ANYWHERE" speech at the dinner, but nope. That ending is going to completely change how season 2 goes. (hello Samurai world) The wait is going to be awful. 

The Walking Dead

We're out of the bottle episode format for a little bit (don't worry, it's back in full force in the 2nd half of the season) I've actually been looking forward to parts of this episode since filming just because I knew we'd be getting the Carl/Negan material from the comics. Unfortunately Jeffrey Dean Morgan has a bit too much "fun" playing Negan so now he has long monologues at every moment and is generally over the top and boring at the same time. 

The Negan/Carl scenes were the highlight of the episode. Though I see Chandler Riggs got the same "this actor isn't very strong so lets direct around them" treatment Emily Kinney used to get on the show. It's too bad they couldn't give that to the actors playing Olivia and Spencer too. They were awful.

This episode did not need to be 90 minutes. In fact, why did we need The Cell? This gave us a more in depth look at the Sanctuary. They should've just threw half of this shit in that episode and kept the normal episode length. Rosita and Eugene got to do something, which was a nice change. Rick and Aaron and Michonne separately seemed to be onto something interesting, but we didn't see that either.

Next week is another extended episode. They didn't even show Carol in the preview. Why am I still watching this show?

Rambling TV is a series where I ramble semi coherently about the things I've watched on television. This week is brought to by my tears because Westworld is over. 

Indie Gems: 5 to 7

Not conventional.

Brian (Anton Yelchin) is a struggling writer in New York City. One day, he passes Arielle (Bérénice Marlohe) on the street and is randomly drawn to her. They start a friendship, then a relationship. Arielle is nine years his senior and he doesn't question her too much when she says she's only available between the hours of 5 and 7, but it turns out she's married with children. Her husband (Lambert Wilson) is aware of their relationship and also has his own mistress (Olivia Thirlby) but Brian is torn between the unconventional relationship they have and wanting something more. 

The dialogue in this film is so rich. Sometimes when I watch films about writers, they can come off as merely saying platitudes. This didn't feel like that at all. It's beautiful, and has great bits of humor thrown in. Whether a juxtaposition of Brian and Arielle trying to tell the differences between wine and beer blindfolded, to Brian's no-nonsense father (played by Frank Langella) being a little bit too frank. It has an excellent flow to it. 

Yelchin and Marlohe have amazing chemistry together. It's easy to see why they would fall for each other. Even if the plot is a tad predictable, I enjoyed watching it unfold. It's very poignant, even more so now with Yelchin's passing. This has turned into one of my favorite performances of his. 

Grade: A

Watched on: Some shady streaming site (I know, but you try finding this movie somewhere in decent quality)

Memorable Quote: "I can't discuss her martial status because if I do my pancreas will explode - Sam (Frank Langella)

Thursday Movie Picks: Comfort Movies

This week's theme from Wandering Through the Shelves is comfort movies. I imagine we'll see a wide variety of choices this week since comfort will mean something different to anyone. For me, "comfort" films aren't usually my favorites. There's mostly movies I think are pretty good, but not great. But I can't help but watch them every time they're on TV. 

1) Gothika

Might as well get the weird one out of the way. If I can't decide on a movie to watch, I almost always throw this one in. I don't know why, I find it's creepiness comforting in a morbid way.

2) The Secret of NIMH

This is one of my favorite cartoons when I was a kid and we watched it as a family quite often. I watch it with my own family now, and it serves as a nice memory of home when things were normal. Plus, I always remember when we sat down as a family to watch the sequel and were all horrified at how bad it was. That was a Christmas present, and my dad actually apologized to me. 

3) The Shawshank Redemption

This movie is on TV ALL THE TIME. And you'd think I'd be able to click past it. Nope, watch it every time. This is a perfect boring Sunday afternoon movie. 

Rambling TV: Thoughts on Westworld and TWD

With the holiday I almost forgot to write about TV this week, despite Westworld having an amazing episode. Let's talk about that first.


SO many theories were confirmed in the penultimate episode. Bernard really is a host made in Arnold's image. There's almost certainly two time lines and William really will end up becoming the Man in Black. 

They didn't let us know what happened to Elsie, Stubbs went looking for her and was captured by hosts, which leads me to believe she's at least alive.

Logan was tormenting Dolores in front of William until she escaped. Logan handed him a picture of his sister, the same picture that threw Dolores' father out of whack in the premiere and gave it to him to "remind" William he has a girl at home. William says he understands, then while Logan is passed out, he kills all the other hosts.

Mauve is still plotting and building her army.

We got a visit from old Clementine again. Bernard corners Ford about hist past and has her put a gun on him. After Ford messes with Bernard a bit, making him relive his painful memories, he finally drops the bombshell Arnold truth on him. This is spliced with a scene of Dolores after she leaves William, her scenery and clothes change back and forth until she comes face to face with Bernard/Arnold, and reveals she is the one that killed him. Then Ford has Bernard put a gun to his own head. I really hope someone brings him back.

Next week's finale is 90 minutes, and that has to tide us over until early 2018. I can't wait.

The Walking Dead

This week in The Walking Bottle Episodes, we check up with Tara and Heath for an entire 70 minutes. They get separated, and Tara runs across an all female community who had all the men and boy killed by Saviors a while back. They have a shoot immediately policy, but Cyndie takes a liking to Tara and saves her. She then walks back to Alexandria and learns about Denise, Glenn, and Abe since that all happened when she was gone.

In theory, this story wasn't bad. Tara is one of my favorites. Even though this new Oceanside community is just a gun filled plot device for our currently gunless group, I liked Cyndie and the thought of an all female community is intriguing, though Gimple will probably fuck it up because he can't write female friendships. But the bottle episode format really hurts this. Had this story been told along side others over multiple episodes ala Game of Thrones (seriously, they try to be GoT so much, you'd think they'd attempt parallel story telling) it would've worked. But sadly, it didn't.

Next week is a 90 minute episode as well. I think Gimple took a page out of Mr. Robot's book with all these extended episodes this season. 

Rambling TV is a series where I ramble semi coherently about the things I've watched on television. Click those gifs to be redirected to their makers. 

Review: Allied

Could you do it?

Canadian Max Vatan (Brad Pitt) is an intelligence officer on a mission in Casablanca. His partner, French Marianne Beauséjour (Marion Cotillard) are instructed to pose as a married couple and assassinate some German officers during WWII. After completing their mission, they move to London and marry for real. After some time, Max is told that Marianne may be a German spy, and if it's proven she is, he must execute her himself. 

Allied poses a heavy question. If you found out your beloved spouse was spying for another country, one that's consistently bombing the one you live in, would you believe it? If it was true, could you actually kill them yourself? I'd probably chicken out, personally and Max is understandably about 2 inches away from an existential crisis over it for the last half of the film. 

I feel the same way about Allied as I did The Accountant. It's not a bad film, far from it, it just didn't wow me. It's certainly worth seeing, though maybe on DVD. It does quite a few things right. Pitt and Cotillard are perfectly cast, the score is fitting and the cinematography is absolutely gorgeous, but it's missing something. I can't quite put my finger on it, and while it builds suspense very well during the first 3rd of the film, it fails to match that level again. One thing I thought it did very well was the air raids in England. While they don't show the brutal reality of them, the shots of the skies were horrifying.

Recommended: Yes, but no rush.

Grade: C+

Memorable Quote: "A husband always offers his wife a cigarette before lighting his own." - Marianne Beauséjour (Marion Cotillard)