Thursday, February 2, 2017

Riske Business: In Case You Missed Them (January 2017 Edition)

by Adam Riske
My take on some recent releases in theaters, ranked from least favorite to favorite.

The Bye Bye Man – I went into this movie expecting it to be pretty bad with the hope it would be enjoyably so. It absolutely is. This is a very unusual and fascinating bad movie. The Bye Bye Man certainly recalls those garbage teen horror movies from earlier in the 2000s (e.g. Darkness Falls), but this one has just enough WTF moments for me to recommend you watch it drunk sometime in the future. Most of the acting is atrocious, there’s a CGI dog that looks like something from Spawn and it features the greatest/most illogical librarian character in the history of movies. The Bye Bye Man is so oddly put together that it is even kind of creepy and sad (not, like, ironic sad but actual sad) at times. It’s a fascinating movie. It is also exactly what I needed in the midst of night after night of going to bed traumatized from watching current events on MSNBC for hours on end. As described by Nicolas Cage in Bringing Out the Dead, I’ve felt like a grief mop recently and something so silly and inconsequential as The Bye Bye Man provided a brief respite.
Patriots Day – Boy do I have complicated feelings about this one. It’s very well-made and suspenseful with mostly strong acting across the board, BUT should it have been made at all? I find myself of the opinion that I simply don’t know. I feel queasy watching a movie like Patriots Day because it’s supposed to be honoring the heroes of the Boston Marathon bombing (and the city overall), but isn’t it also exploiting those same people for entertainment purposes? Does it help the victims to have a recreation of these events on-screen as a reminder? Here’s where we get into some gray areas. By this rational, should there be a Schindler’s List? Or Roots? Of course there should be if for no other reason than as a reminder that those events should never have happened or happen again. But is that Patriots Day's aim? All I know for certain is that I think the movie is good and moving but also an experience I squirmed all the way through for multiple reasons, only some of which I’m sure the filmmakers intended.
Paterson – Here’s a movie that is alternately beautiful (e.g. the scene where Adam Driver’s titular character listens to a teenager’s poem from her secret notebook) to maybe a little too staid for its own good. What I like most about Paterson besides Driver’s performance -- he’s always good -- is that it helped me better appreciate poetry by seeing the genesis of several poems and how they were inspired. I think the movie touches on some interesting elements but abandons them (e.g. Paterson seems to be a deep/existential artist but his wife seems to be more of a populist one) and that prevented me from loving the film. I’m not sure what the movie is trying to say to be honest. Is Paterson just a simple man of simple pleasures and is satisfied with his lot in life? Is he dying on the inside? Could I just be projecting onto his character since he’s sort of a blank? What I take away most from Paterson, though, is that it’s a celebration of art and the artist – no matter what scale it is (i.e. even if for an audience of just you).
The Founder – Here’s a movie that’s very good and seems to have been lost in the pile of adult dramas at year’s end. Michael Keaton is perfectly cast and gives a tremendous performance as Ray Kroc, “founder” of the McDonald’s corporation. The story itself is fascinating as a chronicle on the rise of this global giant and it’s told in a refreshingly straightforward and non-flashy way through the great Robert Siegel’s (Big Fan, The Wrestler) script. The direction from John Lee Hancock (The Blind Side, The Rookie) is modest, almost wholesome, and I think the juxtaposition of Siegel and Hancock really works to the movie’s benefit since the McDonald’s brothers (the true originators of the company) are genial and na├»ve while Kroc is a cutthroat scumbag on the prowl. There’s an added element that factored into my enjoyment of The Founder as well, which is the representation of so many suburban Chicago locations very rarely (if ever) seen on screen, from Arlington Heights to Schaumburg. It’s cool to see neighboring cities and your own hometown pop-up (by name) on a movie screen. It’s even better when it happens and you’re watching it in your hometown (though the movie I’ve heard was shot in Georgia). That would explain Keaton’s garbage Arlington Heights accent. Just kidding, but yeah, it really doesn’t sound anything like us.

Have you caught any new releases worth recommending? I’ve been meaning to catch up with Lion, Sleepless and Toni Erdmann. Has anyone seen those?


  1. Despite working for a theater chain I actually haven't watched anything that was released this year. I might get a chance to watch Lion, but aside from that there hasn't been much to interest me since we've haven't gotten Paterson in.

    Unlike last year where my goal was to watch as many movies as humanly possible, this year so far I've been spending more time practicing my writing and watching stuff I've been wanting to revisit and re-evaluate. There are at least a few things coming up though that I'm looking forward to.

  2. I'm so excited that you enjoyed The Bye Bye Man, because I loved it (for similar reasons as you,) and haven't heard one positive thing about it from anyone else! It reminds me quite a bit of Wes Craven's My Soul to Take, though there aren't exactly strong similarities between the two. Also like you, I loved The Founder and was left unmoved by Paterson. The first half of Lion is stellar, and the second half is pitiful. The ebullient praise for Toni Erdmann has been baffling to me, because I can't find one thing exceptional about it beside its length. And I fell asleep (seriously) during Sleepless. These capsule reviews are really well done! I didn't realize how much stuff you're seeing.

    1. Thanks E.S.A.D.D. Yeah I go to a lot of movies.

    2. My Soul to Take is brilliantly terrible. I was going to skip The Bye Bye Man but now I have to check it out.

  3. My wife and I saw Lion. It's super emotional. I cried a little, she cried a lot. If you're of the type who gets emotional and doesn't mind doing so, I'd recommend it.

  4. I just got home from seeing Paterson and really enjoyed it. Its just such a nice film. Not sure how else to put it. Its calm, pleasant, about peoples passion for art and the weird way the world can bend any artist who operates at any artistic capacity. And, no joke, to move with the tone of the movie -- as I left the theater I noticed the only other person in the theater looked nearly identical to the Everett character, even had similar glasses.