Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Quick Thoughts: "Ridiculous 6," "The Stanford Prison Experiment" "Tangerine"

Quick Thoughts
 Its the holidays, and this is the time of year where I am frantically getting all the gifts I need for people and wrapping it before the big day starts.

This is also the time of year where I start to cram as many movies as I can into the year. I have seen some good movies within the past few days, and I wanted to share some quick thoughts on those movies. These are going to be some mini-reviews. Short, sweet and to the point. I am going to cramming as movies as I can in the next two and a half weeks, so these Quick Thoughts maybe common place as I do all the other stuff I got going on for the holidays.

Ridiculous 6
The Netflix brand is once again flexing its muscle over the weekend with the release of "The Ridiculous 6" a comedy-western from the mind of Adam Sandler. This doesn't feel like the usual Adam Sandler movie, because he never goes  this high-concept. For that reason, I found "The Ridiculous 6" to be at least intriguing. While there is a sappy sweetness to most of Sandler's work these days, this just felt like a straight-up comedy. Now, I am not going to pretend I know anything about Native American culture, but I don't. So I can't comment on the controversy this movie made prior to release. But I can say that I don't think Sandler ever went overboard with his humor, especially when it pertained to Native Americans. I don't know if the explicit content got edited out, but there weren't really any jokes at all involving Native Americans, so anybody expecting something along the lines of "Borat" can breathe easy. The movie tries to be an ode to westerns as six individuals who all have the same father unite together to help him pay off some bandits.

Its a fun idea and feels very fresh from the usual Sandler fair, the only problem is that Sandler forgot to make the movie funny. There are some usual poop-jokes that I snickered at. Believe it or not, Taylor Lautner is actually a really good dimwit (My girlfriend and I deduced that he should NEVER try anything dramatic ever again.). The biggest problem the movie had is that it wasn't funny. I chuckled here, and I smiled there. But overall, I didn't bust my gut laughing like I do at "Big Daddy," "Billy Madison" or "Happy Gilmore." While Sandler's heart is in the right place, I wouldn't call "The Ridiculous 6" a return to form. For a film that features Vanilla Ice as a rapping Mark Twain and Blake Shelton as Wyatt Earp, that's a bit disappointing.

FINAL GRADE: C-

The Stanford Prison Experiment
The Stanford Prison experiment was an exercise which took place at the college in August 1971. Twenty-four young men were chosen from a tight pool and half were told to be guards and the other half prisoners in a simulated prison experiment conducted at the college. The experiment was to be a study of conflicts that rise between prison guards and prisoners. While Dr. Philip Zimbardo had complete control over the experiment, it quickly spiraled out of control as the men involved got carried away in their roles. An experiment that was supposed to last two weeks was cut down to six days. Prior to the experiments cancellation two "prisoners" left early due to overbearing emotional abuse.

The Stanford Prison experiment of 1971 is a fascinating story, that has been loosely adapted into two movies, one hailing from Germany and the other from the U.S. Those movies are so cranked with typical Hollywood cliche that they come off absurd. "The Stanford Prison Experiment" is a straight-up adaptation of the true story. It uses real exerts recorded from the experiment and the real Philip Zimbardo was involved in the movie. For the first time ever, this story is told right, and it is still unflinching and even horrifying. Billy Cudrup plays Zimbardo, and it shows how he slowly lost control over his own study, and the decisions he made that helped him lose control. Ezra Miller, Tye Sheridan, Michael Angarando, Logan Miller, Johnny Simmons, Nicholas Braun and Thomas Mann are just some of the great actors playing the prisoners and guards. If you didn't notice that is a fine list of the greatest actors of their particular generation, and they make you believe in the fascination and horrors of such an experiment. "The Stanford Prison Experiment" is a grand showcase of how we passion can lead to loss of control. And how certain authoritative roles can change us as people.

FINAL GRADE: A

Tangerine
"Tangerine" is a movie about two friends, who are transgendered prostitutes. One friend Sin-Dee is dating her pimp. On a typical Christmas Eve in Los Angeles, Sin-Dee finds out that her pimp is cheating on her. The two friends venture throughout the city trying to find her pimp and confront him about his unfaithful behavior. Yes, that's the entire movie. Yes, it does sound rather odd, but there is a sense of wonder in the story that I found hard to deny. It wasn't a movie I was expecting to like. I'll even admit that it kind of takes a little bit to finally get going, and I was ready to write the movie off completely. But as it went on, I found myself enjoying myself. Laughing at the funny parts and totally engulfed in the story being told.

Part of the charm of the movie is the wonderful talent by the two leads. Kitana Kiki Rodriguez plays Sin-Dee and Mya Taylor plays Sin-Dee's friend Alexandria. These are two brilliant, transgender actresses and they really indulged in the films story line. They are both incredible and they help you buy into the absurdities of the movie. There is also another story around a taxi driver named Razmik (played by Karren Karagulian) who is fascinated by one of the prostitutes, but is also a devout family man. How these two stories collide is actually pretty incredible and I can honestly say I had a decent time with this one. It is definitely full of surprises.

FINAL GRADE: B

This probably won't be the final edition of this before the year is out, so keep an eye out for more soon.

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