‘A Movie A Day’ Week Three: ‘Mudbound’ And ‘The Set-Up’

It’s week three of my “A Movie A Day” quest, and there’s two movies I can highly recommend as well as briefly discuss a flick that was a surprise disappointment (hint: it deals with a super pig!). More below, as well as a set up to my set-up!! Pardon the pun as you soon will see . . .

Since I’m half of the CinemAddicts team, I can’t really call myself a “cinema addict” if I didn’t devour a ton of movies even if time doesn’t permit. Films have, next to family, been the central point of my life, so I’m taking this whole “A Movie A Day” thing seriously. There are moments, such as the River and Joan Didion: The Center Not Hold days, when I simply don’t want to watch a movie due to my own weariness or poor planning. But hey, that’s life, and by committing this daily goal has given me a bit more focus (even if the glaucoma in my eyes tell me otherwise!). Anyways, here’s the week three breakdown and a couple of recommendations:

  1. Sunday, November 12: The Set-Up – A classic boxing drama featuring Robert Ryan as a principled but worn down pugilist and Audrey Totter as his understandably worried wife. Directed by Robert Wise, this 73 minute feature gets a ton of story out of its short running time. Along with great performances form Ryan and Tooter, the feature has stunning cinematography work from Oscar winning DOP Milton Krasner (Three Coins in the Fountain). My DVD also has an audio commentary from Martin Scorsese, and I’m looking forward to checking out his thoughts on the film. If you love tight fisted, black and white dramas with a noirish edge, The Set-Up is a perfect choice. Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.  
  2. Monday, November 13: The Merry Gentleman – This 2008, directed by and starring Michael Keaton has had its share of legal issues, but aside from the headaches it must have caused Keaton, the movie actually works thanks to the chemistry between Keaton and Kelly Macdonald. Flick centers on a stoic and suicidal hit man (Keaton) who befriends a woman (Macdonald) in need of some holiday cheer (the movie is set around the holiday season). Since the woman has run away from an abusive husband (Bobby Cannavale), she needs a good friend by her side, and having a guy who kills for a living may help her tie a very loose end (btw she has no idea about her new buddy’s coldblooded gig). An interesting enough watch, and if you have Amazon Prime and are a fan of Keaton and Macdonald’s work, this is an easy watch. Rating: 3 out of 5 stars  
  3. Wednesday, November 14: River – Having been a fan of director Jamie M. Dagg’s latest flick Sweet Virginia (I discussed the film with Anderson Cowan on November’s installment of CinemAddicts), I decided to check out his 2015 flick about a principled surgeon (Rossif Sutherland) who’s on the run in Laos. Sutherland, the son of actor Donald Sutherland, does a solid job as the man who gradually feels the proverbial walls are closing in on him, and River is a worthy thriller to catch on Netflix. Not as great as Sweet Virginia, but it was an ambitious (how many movies are actually shot in Laos?) and an effective enough debut from Dagg. Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
  4. Wednesday, November 15: Between Us – Los Angeles set relationship drama headlined by Olivia Thirlby and Ben Feldman. Basically stumbled onto the movie after scouring Netflix and was pleasantly surprised. For more info, check out my review on Deepest Dream.

    Between us
    Between Us Photo Credit: Aaron Epstein/Caviar — © 2015 Caviar Content. All Rights Reserved
  5. Thursday, November 16: Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold – Having not read anything by Didion, this documentary, directed by her nephew Griffin Dunne (a dude I still remember as Madonn’as co-star in Who’s That Girl?), was a total value added watch. Didion’s perceptive accounts of loss, as well as her familial connection with Dunne, makes this documentary a cut above the talking head documentary. Didion’s a writer I’ll definitely read after this doc, so this was a total plus for me. Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
  6.  Friday, November 27: Okja – It’s the one film I was looking forward to all week, and unfortunately I was highly disappointed this super pig movie. Blessed with an all-star cast (Tilda Swinton, Jake Gyllenhaal, Lily Collins, Steven Yeun, Paul Dano), the movie’s standout moments are actually the first act as we see the little girl (Seo-Hyun Ahn) bond with Okja in the mountains of Korea.As soon as Okja is captured, and we witness the girl’s journey to get Okja back, I simply checked out. Gyllenhaal’s performance as a corrupted animal show host was forced beyond belief (actually Dano, who plays the leader of a non-violent, animal activist group, would have been perfect in that role). I’d recommend Okja for the sublime first chapter on the film and to see a group of A-list stars at play. But overall, a bit disappointing. Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
  7.  Saturday, November 18: Mudbound – There’s really too much to say about this film in one short weekly recap, but if you have Netflix and have some time on your hands, give this film a shot. Based on Hillary Jordan’s acclaimed debut novel, Mudbound is a sprawling epic about two farming families living in the unforgiving landscape of the Mississippi Delta. Running at 134 minutes, director/co-writer Dee Rees cuts back and forth between life on the farm and the WWII experiences of two men (Garrett Hedlund, Jason Mitchell) who would eventually bond during their time in Mississippi.With racism, family strife and struggles, as well as war scenes to cover, Rees has a ton of stuff to cover in the narrative, and she does it with subtle craftsmanship and aplomb. My only quibble is that there are so many fascinating characters (including Mary J. Blige and Rob Morgan playing Mitchell’s hard working parents) in Mudbound that it’s inevitable a few of them wouldn’t get the proper attention they deserve (Carey Mulligan, who plays Garrett’s sister-in-law, is an example). That being said, Mudbound is a total and unexpected stunner (it reminded me a bit of Atonement), and the ending absolutely sticks the landing. Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars 

    Mudbound - (Netflix)
    Carey Mulligan in “Mudbound.” (Netflix)

***Each month, I take reader/podcast listener suggestions on movies to watch to help me on my daily quest. A random person will be selected at the end of each month and receive a Blu-ray for giving me a suggestion. To offer up a movie suggestion, please Comment Below or e-mail me at editor@deepestdream.com and give me your monthly choice and you’ll be entered!! Thanks again for the support!!

***Week four will be totally devoted to movies released this year, as I’m getting a ton of Academy screeners to watch. So stay tuned fellow movie lovers!!

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