Sock Talk Jon’s 2015 Cinematic Best of the Best

As 2015 comes to a close, it’s time to reflect on all of the great cinema from this year! And this year was very exceptional. There are still a few films I never got a chance to screen due to availability in my area, but I certainly watched more of my must see list than ever before.

So, without wasting anymore time, here are my top 15 must see films of 2015!

15. What We Do in the Shadows

A hilarious, reality tv style, horror/comedy with fantastic characters and spot on comedic timing. One of the funniest films in recent memory.

14. Mississippi Grind

Incredible performances by Ben Mendelsohn and Ryan Reynolds (whose chemistry works wonderfully), Mississippi Grind is a terrific road movie about two gamblers chasing that pot of gold.

13. He Never Died

Henry Rollins plays biblical figure Cain, giving an incredibly subdued, hilarious and ultra violent performance. I enjoyed this more than just about anything else this year and see myself watching it over and over again.

12. Legend

Tom Hardy takes on a double role as real life mobsters the Cray brothers, in what is essentially a British Goodfellas. Watching Tom Hardy act out both of these completely different/volatile characters is nothing short of amazing.

11. Results

A romantic comedy that is actually funny, Results is the story of a couple of personal trainers who come to terms with their bizarre relationship. Eccentric characters abound here and it earns extra points with me, as it perfectly nails the various types of insane mind sets of people who make fitness a lifestyle.

10. Inherent Vice

While it’s not my favorite Paul Thomas Anderson film, it is a Paul Thomas Anderson film. Which means it’s gorgeous, eccentric and hilarious. This film is worth watching for the incredible back and forths between Josh Brolin and Joaquin Phoenix alone.

9. Ex Machina

A brilliant film on the subject of AI and it’s inevitability. Spectacular performances by Domhnall Gleeson and Oscar Isaac make this an absolute must see.

8. Bone Tomahawk

Much like He Never Died, Bone Tomahawk is another film in which I was surprised at just how much I enjoyed it. On the surface, a gritty/realistic western…but also a surprising horror film. Just brutal, brutal, brutal.

7. Youth

Simple on plot, but big on performances, Youth is an astounding film with some of the best cinematography/locations I’ve seen in a long time. This is a film where you immerse yourself in the world with these characters and get lost for a couple hours. Rachel Wiesz also gives what is undoubtedly one of the best performances/tirades I have ever seen.

6. Partisan

Set in a dystopian future/present/it doesn’t really matter, Partisan is an incredible film. Vincent Cassel runs what is essentially a commune where he raises children to be hitmen. A really interesting take on nature versus nurture, with wonderful performances by Cassel and newcomer Jeremy Chabriel.

5. Hateful Eight

I saw the special Road Show version of Hateful Eight in glorious 70mm and it was astounding. One of the greatest opening scenes in recent memory, a killer score by Ennio Morricone, spectacular performances of some truly loathsome/lovable characters and it’s got that Tarantino wit to boot. Be prepared to laugh and be equally repulsed as Samuel Jackson tells what is arguably the most disturbing fellatio story ever.

4. Mad Max: Fury Road

At 70 years old, George Miller has created one of the greatest action films, well, possibly ever. Fury Road never lets up and never lets you catch your breath. There is also some tremendous world building on display here, as every vehicle, character and set piece tell a thousand stories while not even saying a word. With the hellish production this film went through, it’s amazing it was made at all, let alone turned out this good.

3. Sicario

This thriller puts you right in the shoes of Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) as she goes into the seedy underbelly of the Mexican drug cartel. A dirty, violent, palpably tense and brutal film.

2. It Follows

Probably the movie I’ve seen the most this year, It Follows is a modern horror masterpiece. The fear that this movie manages to put into your head is incredible. What it doesn’t tell you about the monster is arguably more horrifying than what it does. A killer soundtrack by VG musician Disasterpiece adds a genuine terror to this film that compliments the visuals wonderfully. An absolute must see.

1. 99 Homes

While scarier than It Follows, 99 Homes is not a horror film whatsoever. What it is, is a very realistic and terrifying look at the modern housing market model. One of the things that 99 Homes does best in my opinion, is leave a rather ambiguous hero/villain role. The premise of kicking people out of their homes is certainly not an easy one to side with and I like that Michael Shannon and Andrew Garfield’s character arcs are so well written and have valid points for both sides of the argument. This in itself is such a rarity, a topical film that doesn’t have an agenda, it’s just stating the facts. 99 Homes is gut wrenching and certainly not an easy film to watch subject matter wise, but is an important film and easily my favorite of 2015!

Honorable Mentions:

The following are all films that either came close to making my top fifteen, or I just really enjoyed…either way, I highly recommend seeing all of these.

Ant-Man
Avengers: Age of Ultron
Beasts of No Nation
Big Short, The
Black Mass
Black Sea
Bridge of Spies
Call Me Lucky
Cop Car
Cut Bank
Drunk Brilliant Stoned Dead
Escobar: Paradise Lost
Good Kill
Inside Out
Kingsman
Krampus
Maggie
Man From U.N.C.L.E.
Martian, The
Mr. Holmes
Night Before, The
Paddington
Slow West
Southpaw
Spotlight
Spring
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Steve Jobs
Stung
Tomorrowland
Trumbo
Voices, The
White God
Yakuza Apocalypse
Z For Zachariah

Tech Review: LG 55″ 9100 OLED 1080p HDTV

The pinnacle of display technology is finally here

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Ever since the days of bulky CRT screens, I’ve been a tremendous fan of display technology.  Perhaps it’s my passion for movies, but to me, there’s nothing better than a good home theater experience.

Display tech has come a long way since the days of your grandfather’s old Zenith. With the advent of flat panel televisions and HDTV, we’ve gone beyond those blurry boxes to sleek sets that display a resolution our eyes (studies show) can barely process.

LCD, Plasma, LED, UHD…with so many options, how do you choose? Well, a good display is determined by a few things, richness of color, contrast ratio and the depth of it’s black levels. While many sets can typically excel in one or two areas, it’s been  impossible to find a set that can provide the perfect visual experience…until now.

Enter the newest contender to the battle for your eyeballs, OLED. OLED, or organic light emitting diode, is a recent tech that rather than being lit by light bars (as is common in LCD/LED displays), OLED lights each pixel individually. This allows for a PERFECT level of bright and dark that doesn’t bleed into one another.

I’ve been waiting for this technology to decrease in price and become more consumer friendly and I finally managed to pick up the LG 9100 display this past week. The results are astonishing.

Simply put, it cannot get any better than this. This set can display PERFECT black levels, so much so, that even when watching a movie in a dark room, there is zero trace of light bleed. If you are watching a dark scene, it looks as if the set isnt even on. Its astonishing. Not to mention the fact that it’s nearly without a bezel and the screen thickness is smaller than a pencil.

Colors pop with an almost 3D effect (which this set does offer as well) and the brightest scenes radiate brilliantly.

The LG9100 is currently the apex of display technology and the best television on the market. There are also 4K models available which range from $3000 – $5000. Currently the 55″ 9100 retails at $2499, but if you’re lucky you can get it on sale for $2000.

Whether you’re a movie lover or gamer, the LG 9100 is the set for the most hardcore viewer. An elite set that displays absolutely flawlessly and will please even the most critical of eyes.

I honestly don’t know how anything can get better than this visually, or how our eyes will even be able to process it should that happen. Until that time comes though, I cannot recommend this set highly enough.

-Sock Talk Jon-

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Spoiler Free Review)

“Thank the maker!”

Now, if any of you read my piece on “Remembering Star Wars” you’re already aware that Star Wars is something of a love/hate thing. Namely, I used to love it, but now I hate it. Or that is, I did hate it…

I went into Star Wars: The Force Awakens with no agenda, I didn’t expect to loathe it, because it looked nothing like the dreadful prequels…but I also didn’t go into it looking through nostalgia glasses ready to adore it either. I went into this film the best way possible, willing to give it a chance to impress me. To make me feel the way Star Wars did before the horrors of nonsensical added cgi footage…or pod races…or Jar Jar Binks.

And you know what? It’s good.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a genuinely good film.

But it’s not a great film. It’s essentially a mishmash of the original trilogy and has some ham fisted plot exposition…but, the characters and the art direction shine brilliantly here.

This might be one of the most beautifully put together films I’ve seen all year. Every frame is a masterfully composed photograph, lovingly created with all sorts of silent backstory that is subtly told through each extra,  practical fx puppet or prop in the background characters interact with.

And the characters themselves? Fantastic. I was especially pleased with Rey (Daisy Ridley) who exudes such strength and confidence. I haven’t seen a female protagonist so less in need of rescue from anyone, since Taarna from Heavy Metal. She’s excellent. I found John Boyega to be a good character as well, though he’s not quite as fleshed out as Rey. Just sort of along for the ride and happy to be so. Who really stood out to me was the main villain, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). As much as I love the Marvel movies, the one area they lack greatly in is the villain department, so it pleased me to no end that Disneys other big franchise Star Wars got it right. Simply put, he’s fantastic. A great mix of childish rage and ambitions, with a genuine inner turmoil over wanting to do the right thing.

The Force Awakens is a perfect amalgamation of old and new. It didn’t feel like something I hadn’t seen before, but still managed to surprise me a couple times (that beautiful ending!) and if I’m being perfectly honest, that is the absolute best thing this movie could have done.

This film has not only made a tired old Star Wars cynic a fan again, it’s also the best film in the entire Star Wars anthology. It’s the Rocky Balboa of the Star Wars films, easily the best of the bunch, but only because of the respect and acknowledgement it gives to the previous entries.

May the force be with you.

-Sock Talk Jon-

Sock Talk Podcast Episode 60: Louie!!!

Podscreen Logo

 

Episode Runtime: 2:02:27
Episode Summary:

Welcome back to Sock Talk! This week Phil Caron and Jon Healy, the producers of the documentary  “My Name Is Jonah”, talk to their good friend and delightful online curmudgeon, Louie Falcetti. No subject is too taboo: Religion, depression, life’s failures, Babbages. The list goes on.

It’s been a while, but it’s kind of been worth the wait. Listen, won’t you?

Also, if you’d like to donate to Sock Talk Jon’s animated project you can do so here: www.patreon.com/progenitor

Music intro and outro: Provided by Lugubrious Moron

Phil Healy Website: I Hunger Productions
Jon Caron Website: Asylum Studios Photography + Design

Film Review: Results

“I wanna learn how to take a punch…”

I typically find romantic comedies to be the bane of cinema. They’re usually just the same recycled garbage, never touching on genuine relationship issues and relying on the same old tropes and gags. Results is refreshingly different.

This movie spoke to me on so many different levels, as a certified personal trainer with 20+ years of experience in physical fitness myself, it was genuinely great to see a comedy of all things so perfectly personify the borderline insanity that any serious athlete is afflicted with. Fitness affects EVERYTHING in your life, you train someone else because you’re trying to teach them that philosophy and adopt it into their own life. Results captures this struggle flawlessly. It even manages to get the various types of trainers and clients that you encounter on a day to day basis so accurately. It really is such an odd/difficult lifestyle philosophy to explain and I was really pleased to see how well it was portrayed.

Oh yeah, this movie is also hilarious. Each character is so uniquely flawed and that plays out so well when the actors have such amazing dialogue to interact with one another to. It’s not your standard inane romantic comedy chatter. The romance itself is all quite down played and isn’t even the center of the story, it’s just sort of something that happens as you go on this marvelously eccentric journey.

Brilliantly witty dialogue, a great cast/performances and the wonderful accuracy of portraying the life of a goal oriented athlete, make Results an absolute must watch and this is definitely one of my top films of 2015.

-Sock Talk Jon-

Remembering Star Wars

“It’s all true…”

Star Wars means so many different things to so many different people…to most, it is a joyous reunion with their inner child, a time when things were simple and good. To others it is the the age old tale of good versus evil…of a fall from grace and ultimate redemption…

to me, Star Wars is now this.

It wasn’t always this way. A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I was quite the Star Wars fanatic. It would give me those feelings of butterflies in my stomach that can only really be associated with something one truly loves and the ultimate joy it brings. Every single day after school I would throw my THX remastered edition VHS into my fancy Hi-Fi, auto tracking VCR and be whisked away entirely to another world for 2 hours.

h1tXn

As I got older and my passion for film grew, I got a job working at a small 3 screen theater in Salem, NH. It was truly wonderful, I slung popcorn and got to see free movies anytime I wanted. It was heaven. Then one day, a new trailer and promotions came in for Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace. I was so excited! That trailer! Those images of young Anakin casting a shadow of Darth Vader! I must have snuck in at least a hundred times before every show and watched that trailer. I was ready. Then, the damndest thing happened, on May 19th, 1999, Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace came out and it made me hate Star Wars forever.

I managed to see an early screening on May 18th, with my friend and now Birth. Movies. Death. contributor, Brian Collins. We were both so wide eyed and nervous with anticipation as the words Star Wars slowly rolled back and that iconic theme song triumphantly blasted in glorious surround sound. That nervous feeling started to dissipate almost immediately as a plot synopsis about trade disputes started to scroll down the screen…annnnnd anyone who has actually seen Episode 1 knows how the rest of this goes.

After it was over, Brian and I both were disgusted. How could ANYTHING, let alone a Star Wars film be so terrible? Crowds of people waiting on line over night disapproved of our speaking ill of this new Star Wars film. How dare we blaspheme the latest story in such an iconic series? Well, because it sucked. Really, really hard.

After Episode 1, two further abominations were made, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. These CG bloated, poorly acted, terribly scripted pieces of Midi-chlorian loaded Bantha poodoo, only further drove me from Star Wars. The prequels were and still are, unforgivable pieces of garbage.

My disdain for Star Wars continued to grow as the promise of new higher resolution media came out and Lucas decided that the best way to give Star Wars fans the ultimate in quality, would be to CG a bunch of nonsense into every single film and make that the ONLY way you could watch it. To this day, there still is no official version of an HD Star Wars that doesn’t include Greedo shooting first, or a song and dance routine in Jabba’s palace. I could no longer even take refuge in the original films. Ugh.

Which brings us to 2015, Star Wars Episode 7: The Force Awakens is right around the corner and everyone is losing their mind. If there is a fan base more forgiving than your average Star Wars fan, I haven’t met them. It’s almost as if these people refuse to acknowledge the severe burn they have been consistently receiving as this once beloved franchise has been run into the ground.

I will admit that the new trailer has me interested, I won’t say excited, but certainly interested. It genuinely looks good and I certainly have to believe that the execs in charge of this one know with utmost certainty the prequel disdain has not been forgotten.

I won’t be seeing it on day one, or even week one. But I will see it. And who knows, maybe those butterflies will come back and I will feel warmer than a fuzzy Ewok hug on a hot summer day on Endor.

It does seem that the force is strong with this one.

-Sock Talk Jon-

Film Review: 99 Homes

“America doesn’t bail out losers.”

Every now and again a topic sensitive film comes along that manages to adequately portray BOTH sides of the subject matter at hand without being preachy or agenda driven, 99 Homes is such a film.

Andrew Garfield plays Dennis Nash, a down on his luck Florida construction worker who is behind on his mortgage payment and about to go into foreclosure. While battling valiantly, he ultimately loses his family home which he shares with his mother Lynn (Laura Dern) and son Connor (Noah Lomax), to the smug, e-cigarette smoking, real estate mogul Rick Carver, who is portrayed so wonderfully three dimensional here by Michael Shannon.

This is not an easy film to watch, it handles the subject matter at hand with the appropriate amount of aggressive film making necessary to illustrate how awful this truly is. These aren’t people, they are failures who cannot pay what they owe and are getting exactly what they deserve as the bank sends police officers to forcibly remove them from their now defunct property. No excuses are accepted, no mercy is shown, the bank now owns your home and wants you gone. The end. It is uncomfortable, heart wrenching and handled masterfully.

A wonderful spin is put on this as Nash comes under the employ of the very man who removed him from his home and together, he and Carver take the Florida real estate market by storm. The moral quandary this presents would be difficult for any actor, but Garfield does it effortlessly. The delight in his face as he receives his first big check and is making money, changes dramatically throughout the film as the harsh reality of what he’s doing to these people sets in. The dynamic he and Rick Carver share is fantastic and you even come to understand the viewpoint of the villainous Shannon, because his character is actually given such a tremendous backstory with strong enough arguments that in a way, validate his actions.

The devils advocate that ensues throughout this film is magnificent. Where Wolf of Wall Street was a celebration of villainous excess, 99 Homes is a philosophical debate on who is REALLY to blame. Is it the person who falls behind on their loan because they took more than they could afford? Is it the bank for issuing that loan in the first place, knowing this person couldn’t afford it? This film demands that you acknowledge these questions from both viewpoints rather than force feeding you a one sided agenda.

An absolutely brilliant film that deserves your attention. See it at once.

-Sock Talk Jon-