Films in 2016: Modern movies in August

(Image via Teaser Trailer)
(Image via Teaser Trailer)
Bad Moms (2016)
A very formulaic and at times eye-roll-inducing film, but I did enjoy it a whole lot more than I expected to. (My expectations were in the far negatives, so that wouldn’t have been hard to do.) The Bell/Kunis/Hahn trio is fun to watch. Kathryn Hahn in particular steals the show. Side note: I saw this almost a month after its release and somehow it was still selling out screenings at my local theater!?!

(Image via Arri Kino)
(Image via Arri Kino)
Camp 14: Total Control Zone (2012)
This documentary is heartbreaking and hard to watch. It tells the story of a man who was born in a North Korean prison camp, the son of two inmates who had been match-made by a prison official as a reward for “good” labor. The camp was a “total control zone,” meaning that none of the prisoners would ever be released — they were all to live the rest of their lives at the camp, or in the case of children born there, their entire lives. The man eventually escaped and here recounts both his escape and the years he spent in the camp, including the torture he witnessed/experienced, and the executions of his mother and brother. A very difficult to watch, but important story. I do wish the filmmakers had provided more background information, especially on the two former prison guards interviewed.

(Image via Gian Ramos)
(Image via Gian Ramos)
Stealing Home (1988)
I have a pile of DVDs I’ve been meaning to watch — films that were given to me by other people, and that I’d like to watch before deciding whether to keep. Stealing Home was in that pile and I decided to take a break from my frenzied SUTS viewing/writing to watch it mid-month. The DVD case’s synopsis gave absolutely NO indication of how heartbreaking the premise of this film actually is — Billy is tasked with deciding what to do with his childhood best friend Katie’s ashes after she commits suicide. Though there are several very emotional scenes, the film avoids becoming TOO sad by focusing on Billy’s coming of age and the role that Katie played in it, as well as the positive impact she had on him after her death. (“Everybody needs somebody to remind them of who they are,” Billy says in the beginning of the film, and Katie is that person for him.) Much of the story is told through flashbacks, accompanied by a wonderful soundtrack that includes several mid-century/”oldies” hits. The only thing I really take issue with here is the romance that emerges between Billy and Katie in flashback land. I really liked the scenes of their platonic friendship and wish the film had been about just that — a platonic, important, life-changing friendship. And beyond that, the romance is a liiiittle creepy considering that Katie was at one point Billy’s babysitter. But still, I enjoyed the film for the most part.

(Image via Pulse Radio)
(Image via Pulse Radio)
War Dogs (2016)
Another new release film that I had zero expectations for, but wound up enjoying (much more than Bad Moms). For some reason, it reminded me a bit of last year’s The Big Short, with smoother editing and no celebrity cameos. And, of course, dealing with war rather than home loans. Jonah Hill and Miles Teller both give good performances, with Hill the stronger of the two, bringing a great many of the film’s laughs. The story is that brand of absurd that’s so absurd it could only be true — “the truth is stranger than fiction,” and all that. The first Todd Phillips written/directed film I’ve actually liked!

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