Movies of the Week #45 (2017)

Blablablablablabla. And did I mention, bla!

Movie of the Week

Mother (1996)

Mother : Cinema Quad Movie Poster

Some Monday

  • Mother (1996): I’ve officially embarked on the Albert Brooks tour. As of today, I can’t really say whether it’s a tour I really like or not, but Mother was a pleasant surprise to begin with. The tagline really says a lot: no one misunderstands you better. Brooks, playing a recently divorced Sci-Fi writer, decides to go live with his mother for a while, in order to bond with her and understand whether there’s something in their relationship that undermines all his rapports with women. The beautiful idiosyncrasies both lead characters embody makes them irritating and endearing at the same time. Ultimately, it’s an understated comedy, not quite what I expected, concluding on a very pleasing and non-cliched note.  Its greatest feat is managing to stay true to its story and its protagonists until the end. 8/10

When golden arches fail you

  • The Babysitter (2017): Legendary director McG, best known for his lack of involvement in Christian Bale’s bashing of that poor cinematographer on Terminator Salvation, is at it again. This time he ‘subverts’ the babysitter slasher genre, in what actually proves to be a tolerable, almost enjoyable experience. Starring some easily swappable actors, McG goes all campy in this tale of babysitter turned…well, I won’t spoil it, but needless to say, it’s something way out there. The premise works well for a while, although the movie drags even in spite of its 85 minute runtime. Compared to last week’s Happy Death Day (2017), TB actually rises above the parody to create some memorable moments of bonding and violence. It isn’t a masterpiece, but in its genre, the I want to rank the movie as worthwhile. 6/10

The olden days

  • Heaven Can Wait (1978): Not sure how I got to this ancient Warren Beatty It’s a Wonderful Life wannabe re-imagining. Beatty, playing a pro football player, is snatched by a sort of angel just as he was expected to die, but it turns out ‘angel error’ lead to a premature departure. So instead, the guy is offered to take over the body of another and that’s how he gets mixed up in this feuding love triangle as a multi-millionaire. The movie is good natured and occasionally poignant, even if it fails to really build on its premise to a convincing degree. An unimaginative ending does do it any favours, but all in all, the nine-time (!) Oscar nominated flick is good for a round of popcorn. 7/10
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Movies of the Week #44 (2017)

A blockbuster as the pick of the week, who’d have thunk it?

Movie of the Week

Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

thor ragnarok

The forgotten one

  • The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) (2017): A good if not completely enthralling movie by Noah Baumbach, who keeps exploring themes around family and art. It’s one of those odd movies starring Adam Sandler that are actually worth a go, in spite of my usual aversion to anything partakes in. He plays one of three Meyerowitz children who are still struggling to find some sort of resolution in the relationships they have with their aging father. Dustin Hoffman, Ben Stiller, Elizabeth Marvel, Emma Thompson and Grace van Patten round out the familial cast. If you’ve seen any Baumbach movies (and there are quite a few out there), you know what kind of witty, incisive observations to expect from another profoundly character driven story. If you haven’t then start with The Squid and the Whale (2005)7/10

Please stand up comedy

  • Jack Whitehall: At Large (2017): The Netflix produced stand up featuring Jack Whitehall is moderately amusing. Honestly, it’s only been a week, but I’ve forgotten most things about it. So it’s that kind of gig, mostly running on Whitehall’s charm. 6/10

The disappointment

  • Ingrid Goes West (2017): I was excited to watch IGW, but it ultimately turned out to be not my cup of tea. My aversion towards anything that’s excessively awkward, usually stories built on deception, such as this one, makes my skin crawl. Ingrid is an obsessive instagram stalker whose MO is to attempt to befriend her stalkees at whatever costs necessary. The movie builds up to a big, snarky charge at the antisocially media famous, as well as the veneer that belies the perfect lives that social media captures. It’s nothing new, nor is it spectacularly executed. I did enjoy Elizabeth Olsen’s character though, who really manages to pinpoint the fleeting nature of depth-less relationships, as well as how routined people can be in portraying a certain first image of themselves and of their dreams. 6/10

I’m blocked, buster!

  • Thor: Ragnarok (2017): Director Taika Waititi is a pretty awesome dude and everything he touches seems to shit gold. After the hilarous What We Do in the Shadows (2014) and the equally memorable Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016), directing a huge movie like Thor was going to be a whole different challenge. Waititi proved up to the task and by infusing the dry Thor-verse with much needed levity, he managed to produce a distinctive and utterly enjoyable superhero movie. It helps that the likable brother-frenemies duo of Thor and Loki fight on the same side, with all cameos along the way proving to be more than just casual plugs. I have no idea if you need to have seen the previous movies in the franchise to enjoy this, but as it stands, I can’t help but recommend it. 8/10

Charliiiiize!

  • Atomic Blonde (2017): It had been a while since my last Charlize Theron movie – Mad Max, was it? Anyway, she takes on a power-woman role in this comic-book based production timed around the fall of the Berlin wall. Unfortunately, in spite of some cool fight sequences, I failed to really get into the movie, especially due to the weird construction and Theron’s character’s lack of rapport with her antagonist. The two hour long runtime does do the film any favours either. 5/10

Movies of the Week #43 (2017)

It’s all the same, day in, day out. Rinse and repeat. This week’s theme.

Movie of the Week

Groundhog Day (1993)

Original Cinema Quad Poster - Movie Film Posters

February 2nd!

  • Groundhog Day (1993): I had this memory, that Groundhog Day was a really awesome movie. Last time I saw it, I must have been in my early teens. It’s just one of those films which, growing up, you would have seen countless time on free TV channels. Indeed, upon revisiting it last week, GD proved to be all that I remembered. A peak-form Bill Murray finds himself stuck on Groundhog Day, reporting on an insipid little feast which aims to foretell the arrival of spring. For untold reasons, the day keeps starting over every time, with Murray’s character alternating between disbelief, rage, madness before actually trying to enjoy the day. The story is pretty plain, although director Harold Ramis does well to keep it tight enough to withstand all the to and fro. It’s a bit of a prerequisite, the narrative simplicity, to allow for the many variations. Simplicity is a thing of beauty, when done right. GD is proof for that. 8/10

The much maligned

  • mother! (2017): I’m a big Aronofsky fan, but mother! proved to be too much for me. A cryptic movie, with a plethora of unlikable characters, all sorts of allegories and metaphors, winding down after more than two hours of screentime – you know, I can take most of these things by themselves, but together I was simply irked. Ever since the first half hour, I just felt like there was no need for me to commit to mother!, to care. The way it unwinds later on made it harder still. It doesn’t matter whether the movie is about family, religion, immigration, what-have-you, because I failed to connect on any level. Some of the horror elements might have worked, had my mood by that time not been one of comic disbelief. Consequently, all I was left with at the end of mother! was a lovely little song over the end credits. 4/10

February 2nd!

  • Happy Death Day (2017): Unintentionally, I ended up watching this re-envisioning of Groundhog Day on the same week as the original. The concept is exactly the same and there are quite a few winks and nods towards Ramis’s picture. The twist: it’s the protagonist’s death that keeps rewinding the day. I failed to enjoy it too much in the end, not so much because the story was lukewarm, but because the characters were uninteresting. Here, more so than with GD, I kept asking myself why the little time-shifts don’t matter. For example, if you have a five second delay between one action or the other, many things can occur differently – like sprinklers coming on when you’re in a different place, and other cues like that. It matters more here because Happy Death Day gives the impression that it’s not an endless carousel, but a more limited approach to the idea, with the lead having a set number of opportunities to ‘fix’ the loop. Ultimately, the poor and predictable ending, didn’t do the movie any favors – but it’s still more enjoyable than mother!, haha. 5/10

Movies of the Week #42 (2017)

So much forgettable in a single week, disgusting. That’s what holidays do to your movie watching habits!

Movie of the Week

Wind River (2017)

windriver

Just before departure

  • Better Watch Out (2016): This little slasher pic takes a few slasher tropes and turns them on their head, in the ironic way that appears to be the sole redemption of slashers nowadays. Young-but-old-enough kid and babysitter appear threatened by criminal elements in what turns out to be something a little different. I guess BWO really conveys the power of the gun, just as it thrives on false expectations. Ultimately, it doesn’t really enthrall, ending on a terribly predictable whimper, but its redeeming take on the genre makes it somewhat commendable. 6/10

And we’re off

  • Wind River (2017): Taylor Sheridan is definitely starting to stand out as a memorable screenwriter. After the excellent Sicario (2015) and Hell or High Water (2016), he takes on double duty for Wind River in his directorial debut. The movie tracks the disappearance/murder of a girl in a winter wonderland featuring the modern day displacement of Native Americans. Ultimately, it’s more of a general story about social exclusion, with Jeremy Renner’s tracker-hunter character slotting in nicely, just like Elizabeth Olsen’s (female) FBI agent, sent into no-man’s-land to establish jurisdiction on the criminal proceedings. The grisly conclusion might take a strong stomach to digest, but it’s worth it. 8/10

The festering wait

  • Free Fire (2016): Long on the to-watch-list, director Ben Wheatley keeps it consistent with another movie that’s interesting conceptually, but just doesn’t hold up through its runtime. With a star studded cast, including Brie Larson, Cillian Murphy, Armie Hammer and Sharlto Copley, I just felt that the gun-running story started dragging past its half-way point and never really recovered. The “everyone trying to screw everyone else over” shtick is overcooked and the characters prove to be quite the uncharismatic bunch – except for Hammer and the ever-expansive Copley. A reasonably competent genre film, all in all. 6/10

The Stephen King-athon

  • 1922: I think this makes it the third SK adaptation released within the last two months – it’s like we’re back in the 90s! This story, about a hateful in-family dispute, stars a veteran Stephen King character-actor/actor-character, in Thomas Jane (Dreamcatcher (2003), The Mist (2007)), who pretty much steals the show. Unfortunately, I failed to truly get behind this rat-infested horror tale, perhaps because I am impartial to rats on a screen, or perhaps because the pacing is a bit slow. The whole thing still works, but again, mostly for genre fans. 6/10

Counter-balance

  • The First Time (2012): Had to appease the unappeased, after the SK bucket of rat feces I made everyone indulge in, so I made a drastic choice to go for a big bucket of slush. Surprisingly, in spite of an uninspiring, vaguely charismatic, chemistry-less, but suitably awkward lead couple, TFT proved to not be a total throwaway. There are the odd moments of authenticity which allow it to stand on its own two feet, although these prove to be too sparsely spread in what is, ultimately, just a teen movie about alienation and sex. If that’s what your looking for, and you happen to be fifteen, great. If not, well… 5/10

The old and the restless

  • Our Souls at Night (2017): Ritesh Batra, director of the highly likable The Lunch Box (2013)tries his hand on another story about companionship, starring Jane Fonda and Robert Redford. There is no question here of compatibility or aimless awkwardness, as Fonda and Redford are a couple of the most distinguished and versatile living American actors, both basically in their 80s now, but not looking it. Their two characters come together for a non-romantic relationship aimed at filling their solitary lives, after each had lost their long-time partners. It’s a gentle, sentimental ride, but ultimately OSaN failed to really engage me. In fact, it just kept reminding me of I’ll See You in My Dreams (2015), a film on the same subject which did it all and did it better, for reasons I can’t really recall. So maybe start with that and if you really like it, then give OSaN a shot as well. 6/10

 

Movies of the Weeks #40 #41 (2017)

Being productive while gaping away at the ripples of the Mediteranean is not that easy. Well, it’s easy, it just isn’t right, in a fundamentally existential way. That’s probably what Villeneuve and co. thought while making this movie of the weeks.

Movie of the Weeks

Blade Runner 2049

blade runner

Some manic Monday

  • Gerald’s Game (2017): This was the first Stephen King book I ever read, funnily enough. I remember not quite understanding what it was all about, all the way back in my early teenage years. In this adaption, all the skin-crawlies are well retained, adding to a thoroughly thrilling and engaging movie about trauma and obsessions. Both sexual. It fared better in my mind than the higher caliber It (2017), thanks to a couple of convincing performances by Carla Gugino and Bruce Greenwood. What’s more, unlike It, which has its scares, GG just felt way more unsettling in a way more palpable way. Just it’s conclusion is a bit whack, although I get the symbolic gesture of horror being in the eye of the beholder. 8/10

Super-hero Tuesday

  • Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017): Never having been a big SM fan, I didn’t rush to see the latest, Avengers imbued iteration. It turns out, I was wrong to avoid it, as the new and improved Tom Holland version of the boy in red tights is both fun and not at all too serious. For all it’s derision of the all-knowing super-hero model, I did feel that Michael Keaton’s villain was unsurprising and, implicitly, underwhelming. If you dig this whole universe building exercise by Marvel (and DC, for that matter), there’s no reason to shy away from SMH. Otherwise, your life will be about as fulfilling without it. 7/10

When the Girls come into Town

  • Girls Trip (2017): For whatever reason, I’ve been eagerly awaiting this well reviewed, female African American version of the Hangover. I had seen Malcolm D. Lee’s The Best Man (1999) and its sequel, both of which I thought enjoyable. GT aligns itself well with Lee’s previous efforts. There isn’t much to these genre flicks: if you have a competent writer and actors with good chemistry, odds are something agreeable will come together. Regina Hall, Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith and Tiffany Haddish provide just that. 7/10

Another sequel to our favourite vampire hunter?

  • Blade Runner and Blade Runner 2049: In preparation for the latter, I took the time to enjoy the former once again. Truth be told, I’ve never been fanatical about BR, although I love something like Deus Ex. Upon revisiting it, the original felt a bit sluggish, but definitely memorable. It’s hard to deny the movie’s legacy and influence, with matters of AI and robotics becoming more topical with each passing decade. The sequel achieves the unlikely, in successfully building on the dire, depressing world of Ridley Scott’s initial foray into the matter. One would expect success of director Denis Villeneuve, given his glowing track record. As far as the atmosphere goes, there is nothing to be indicted. As for the pacing, the movie suffers from an unimaginative plot, making the first half feel like it’s dragging some. Fortunately, it builds up to a satisfying face-off, before offering a less than exciting and predictable final sequence. The fact that I didn’t consider it mattered that much is a solid argument towards the compelling vision Villneuve provided for a similar, yet distinctive exploration of the age-old question: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? 8/10

Days come and go

  • Megan Leavey (2017): This fluffy, if not quite light story of a US army person and her attachment to a US army dog feels like it’s stretching something to make it film-worthy. This isn’t to say it’s not at least a bit engaging, just that the stakes aren’t convincing: sure, an attachment between a person and an animal is something to be taken seriously, but ML failed to build the emotional heft to make me shed my cynicism.  Cowperthwaite’s previous effort, the documentary Blackfish (2013), simply worked better because it didn’t require the same emotional argument acceptance in the case of ML does. 6/10

Bloody London

  • Daphne (2017): Critics’ darling Daphne is a movie about solitude and alienation in the digitally enhanced fiefdoms of modern day London. If that sounds like something for you, do not waver. I could definitely emote with the themes of the story, if not the particular sufferings of its titular character, an attachment-fobe treating her social anxieties with the usual drug infused flavours of life. But while Emily Beecham is great in the lead role, you would be well advised to arm yourselves with patience, because even at it’s mere 88 minutes runtime, Daphne proves an acquired, slow burning taste. 7/10

Movies of the Weeks #37 #38 #39 (2017)

It constantly feels like I’m a million weeks behind, but then I check out how many movies I’ve seen and the numbers are dismayingly small. Fact: it’s been less than 0.5 movies/day this year, which is a record low. Fact: there’s no obvious reason for it. Fact: what am I doing writing this in the middle of the night? Perhaps the last one wasn’t a fact.

Movie of the Weeks

Good Time (2017)

goodtime

When I was in London:

  • Logan Lucky (2017): Marketed as a different take on the Ocean’s Eleven template, this Soderberghian adventure takes us on a neat and tidy heist ride. Starring Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Riley Keough, Daniel Craig, Katie Holmes,  et al., the star studded caliber of the joint already brings back some OE memories. I liked it, because of its smooth delivery, punctuated by some zippy humour and an all around tight bank job where everyone gets their fair share. But it’s probably not something you’d write home about, if you were hiding from Interpol, the CIA and whatnot.  7/10

The same day, in London, but on a couch:

  • Hacksaw Ridge (2016): Mel Gibson’s much lauded directorial return is a highly competent, somewhat engaging and mostly forgettable World War II picture. It has the merit of reminding the pagan world that not only the Nazi’s were killing machines, but the Japs were as well – if with fewer dark overtones. The lead of the story, Desmond Doss, is a bit of the antithetical absolute American, in that he doesn’t go out guns blazing – which is really the only un-American thing about him, as the rest of the guy just overflows with the familiar hues of red-white-and-blue patriotism. For what it’s worth, the man saved dozens of fellow soldiers on Hacksaw Ridge, in an act of selflessness that borders the pathological. I’m not sure why I wasn’t taken at all by the character, although if I had to wager a guess, it’s because he lacks any distinguishing inner conflicts beyond the drive to not shot a weapon. Still, the movie works as a whole, even if it’s littered with the predictable, so I am actually going to give it a soft recommendation, on condition that fuzzy heart war stories are your thing. 7/10

A swing to the Romanian:

  • Doua Lozuri (2016): The very highly rated Romanian comedy released last year has been on my to-watch-list ever since I first heard of it more than twelve months ago. Having missed it in the cinemas, it’s time finally came out of sheer boredom. Luckily, it turned out to be an amusing (not-laugh-out-loud) tale, drawing on inspiration from one of the plays penned by every high-schoolers favourite playwright, I.L. Caragiale. Plot in short: three guys buy a lottery ticket; it gets inadvertently stolen and then proves to have some winning numbers on it; quest on for its recovery. The palate of weird, yet not-out-of-place characters encountered on said quest makes the story worthwhile, with one particular scene involving a ‘white Dacia’ tearing me up with subdued laughter. 7/10

And then…

  • Rocco (2016): A Netflix recommendation (man, that account I share with my parents really knows what its doing), the slice of life documentary about pornographic actor Rocco Siffredi starts with a long close up shot of the man’s waist, naked of course, with a running shower pissing water over his legendary manhood in truly poetic fashion.  Unfortunately, it goes mostly downhill from there. With excessive self-characterization, the movie tracks what is supposed to be Rocco’s final porn shoot before dedicating himself to his family. Spreading over 105 minutes, of which it can only justify only about half, the docu offers some insight into the porn industry, but it only stands to attention when the man himself has some overly sexualized tale to tell. Somehow, it’s hard to take it all as seriously as it takes itself, especially since the film fails to dig deep into why Rocco suddenly feels it’s time to end his career (the familial motive provided is both uninteresting, dramatically, and only superficially discussed). So, yeah, not a great way to spend a Monday morning. 4/10

Back to the drawing board:

  • Good Time (2017): After Benny and Josh Safdie’s previous film, Heaven Knows What (2014), I was left pretty much shattered. The experience was immensely consuming. Good Time, in spite of its title, is anything but. Starring Robert Pattinson and Benny Safdie, it tells the story of two brothers, one of which is mentally impaired, who do a bank heist together that goes from bad, to worse, to wtf just happened. With a distinctive electronic/synth-wave score by Oneohtrix Point Never, it’s very much a trance like experience, seemingly headed from point A to point B to point C while disregarding common sense, yet offering a convincing vision of how and why it would happen. It’s somehow pleasing to see that both Pattinson and Kristen Stewart have come off their Twilight highs with the ability and the desire to just follow any passion project that comes their way and offer more low-key, but exciting performances (Clouds of Sils Maria (2014) is a Stewart must). It was my movie of the week, but do expect a rough ride if you go for it. Still…isn’t this great? 8/10

Movies of the Week #36 (2017)

As this week will most likely have a negligible amount of film in it, I dare doing another split. I’ve kept traveling, so that’s my excuse, but there’s still been time for a couple of notches on the old cinematic belt.

Movie of the Week

The Big Sick (2017)

bigsick

It was a Monday

  • An (2015): On the lookout for my foodie movie of the month – not that I’d seen any such movie for a while now – I dug deep into Asian culture, just to find a fluffy piece of mainstream storytelling, with a twist. An, or Sweet Bean, tells the tale of a down-on-life kind of pancake vendor, Sentaro, upon whom an old lady stumbles, offering her skills to produce ‘home made’ sweet bean paste, as opposed to the generic, soulless stuff Sentaro used for his penekeku. The soft spoken, mushy film’s twist is that the nice old lady was a cured leper, which used to be a serious thing in Japan, leprosy, with an equally serious social stigma attached to it. Sure thing, you can watch this at your leisure and enjoy it, even if it doesn’t dig deep into anything at all – not even the food. 7/10

It was not a Monday

  • American Made (2017): This one flew under my radar, i.e. as a big fan of Tom Cruise running, which is surprising given that, overall, it doesn’t suck. It doesn’t do much either, but enjoys itself in painting a messy picture of drugs, politics, diplomacy, war and absurd personal risk. At its best, it proves it can be bitingly ironic, in the style of Buffalo Soldiers (2001), maybe Lord of War (2005)At its not quite best, well, it just about doesn’t seem derivative, but can be easily ignored. For fans of Narcos, I’d guess this to be like a light-hearted thematic spin-off. 7/10

It was a Tuesday

  • Everybody Loves Somebody (2017): In spite of its horrendous title, ELS (not even the symphony) takes a good swipe at the romcom genre and finds itself standing at the end. Starring Karla Souza and some other people, it’s one of those complex dichotomous analyses of the human psyche, wherein one female specimen picks out a random male specimen to fill in for a boyfriend at her parents’ wedding, then half an hour later said female specimen finds herself swaying between new love for random male specimen or old love for ex-male specimen who has proven unreliable. That was a long ass phrase, my English teacher would scold me. Aaaaanyway, in spite of my snide remarks, it’s an age-old recipe that still produces some results if all the pieces are in place and, in this case, they happen to be. 7/10

It was not a Tuesday

  • The Big Sick (2017): One of the most praised movies of the summer, Kumail Nanjiani’s larger than life love story is wholesome, dedicated experience of little things that just about end up making the difference. It definitely brought to mind the more Indian version of this story, shot as a documentary, by Ravi Patel and his sister, Meet the Patels (2014), given that there are a few cultural similarities and definitely lookalike hurdles to be overcome within the United States. Where TBS scores awesome points is in its tactful and emotional portrayal of grief, as Kumail’s on screen persona gets to bond with the parents of his would-be-but-she’s-not-Pakistan girlfriend who is hit by a severe lung infection. Too high expectations risk leading you down the ‘is this it?’ path, because TBS is not posing as a never been seen story. Again, as I often like saying, it works really well because it comes together excellently, in spite of a low-caliber ending. 8/10

It was a Friday

  • The Quiet American (2002): In what is arguably Phillip Noyce’s best picture, Michael Caine and Brendan Fraser, the old reporter and the young doctor, find themselves sharing a love for the same woman in pre-war Vietnam. The spirit of films like The Painted Veil is present in this lush (urban) picture about the tacit American involvement in Vietnam, in days of ‘peaceful’ conflict, while the French were still “civilizing” the area. TQA is as taut and tense as any other Vietnam thriller, thanks also to the source material by Graham Greene, who also wrote the likes of The Third Man (1949) and The Fallen Idol (1948).  8/10

Hey, where did the rest of the week go?

  • It (2017): The much admired remake (re-imagining, how will you) of Stephen King’s sewer-clown terror proves to be rightfully praised, as it manages to stand out and show considerable restraint in using its main protagonist to great effect. However, there isn’t a lot of depth to the thing, as the movie feels a lot like a slightly inferior Stand by Me (1986) with a less interesting cast and featuring a scary clown. I never too much to Stranger Things, which is perhaps why I also didn’t take to this child-driven Twilight Zone story, but for what it is, It works well and provides a robust handful of scares. 7/10

Movies of the Weeks #33 #34 #35 (2017)

My long holiday has lead to this reviews penury, but I’m back in the saddle, being dragged by a loose wild horse. Which, I guess, I’ve been doing for over 3000 movies now. Yay!

I haven’t spent too much time watching stuff, but you’ll still find a few worthwhile mentions in this summary.

Movie of the Weeks

Raw (2016)*

raw

*aka Grave (2016)

At some point three weeks ago:

  • Brokeback Mountain (2005): Long overdue, I finally got my s**t together and watched Ang Lee’s seminal piece of work. I reckon I’ve enjoyed all Ang Lee movies I’ve seen (bar Hulk (2003), of course, which was merely tolerable), so it’s no surprise that Brokeback proved to be all that was said about it and more. There’s little point in dwelling on the homosexuality of it, because the attachment between the two and their love feels authentic on a universal scale. The elliptic storytelling helps create this sense of forced distance between them, as Lee only provides sparse moments of sentimentality to outline the longing the two protagonists must feel. Overall, I’d reckon its gentleness won my over, the light touch with which everything is imbued, even the harshness of time passing over isolated romances. 8/10

At some other point three weeks ago:

  • The Wailing (2016): This Korean zombie/possession movie comes to provide the expected other-worldly-ness so often attached to non-American horror flicks. Well, horror is perhaps an overstatement, but unsettling, to be sure. As an inexplicable murderous stints start occurring in rural Korea, a bumbling cop gets himself in the position of having to find a way to save his daughter, who becomes afflicted of whatever damned curse is propagating in the area. The whole thing works as a powerful allegory for deep-roted mistrust in foreigners, which tends to generate a retaliatory cycle. As a piece of film-making, it stands above the crowd thanks to its beautiful cinematography and score. So, yeah, watch it. 8/10

At yet another point three weeks ago:

  • Raw (2016): After waiting for a long time to watch this controversial flick, I am pleased to report of my contention over the experience. In a sense it would be spoilerish to go deep into the plot, so to keep it short: nice, young vegan girl goes to French college where she gets to experience new things. Ok, she starts eating meat. Ok, it’s human meat. Taking the whole ‘college will change you’ line and giving it a completely new meaning, Raw manages to really underscore how the social pressures collide with the growing need for personal self-expression. It can be a horror story, filled with anxiety, anguish, alienation, and that’s the bullseye the movie aims at – and firmly strikes. For some obscure reason, I found it the most compelling experience of these weeks, not due to the shock value, but because it finds that line where youthful omnipotence meets cluelessness about ones very own self in a naturalistic manner. 8/10

Moving forward to two weeks ago:

  • Band Aid (2017): Zoe Lister-Jones directed, wrote and starred in this little rom-com about a couple trying to make their relationship work by venting…through songs. It’s a competent piece of film-making, starring Adam Pally and the ever bizarre Fred Armisen, but in spite of its intentions and witty execution, I never really got into it very much. Might be something for the less cynical than me, though. 6/10

Still two weeks ago:

  • The Kid (1921): I have generally had a hard time really enjoying Chaplin. In this one, however, I managed to latch onto the short tale with more ease than expected. The gist of the story is that a poor, single woman decides to give up the baby she can’t raise and stows it away in a posh-looking car, in the hope that whatever rich family owns it, will provide the child with a good life. In a twist of fate, the car is then stolen by a couple of goons who ditch the baby in a dumpster, where Chaplin’s tramp finds him. Already this set-up felt heart-breaking and, most assuredly, life doesn’t get easier for the kid and its ‘foster parent’, as they next seen engaging in a life of petty thievery to survive. The upside of it all is that in spite of all this, they make it work as a family. It’s corny, but it works, because Chaplin taps into what I’d perceive to be human nature with ease and perspicacity. 8/10

Times, they are a-changing:

  • Williams (2017): As a big F1 fan, watching Williams was a must. While the documentary is nowhere near the poetic insightfulness of Werner Herzog’s mind worms, it still fleshes out a complex family built around a patriarchal archetype fueled by the obsession for motorsports. Frank Williams, the founder of the F1 team, seems borderline autistic in his masculine world-view on the narrow role emotions are to have in life. Although the story is factually interesting, I would fault it for failing to dig deep enough, i.e. beyond the obvious macho and misogynist tendencies of the motorsports community in years past. F1 enthusiasts will probably enjoy it in spite of this and some aspects of the tale do play well for general crowds too, so it might be worth a look-see. 7/10

Getting there:

  • Song to Song (2017):  I will admit to being pushed into watching this and finding it really hard to enjoy.  Arguably, this is the pretentious equivalent of those New Year’s movies with star studded casts, which turn out to be the cheapest form of holiday entertainment one could put together for a quick boost of the national economy. Here, the likes of Gosling, Fassbender and Rooney Mara aim to gain some more art-house credentials by teaming up in Terrence Malick’s flick about, I don’t know, how fleeting relationships are?, but the whole thing proves an overlong, dull mess without purpose. It’s funny, because I enjoyed Days of Heaven (1978), which is equally purposeless in a sense, but far more coherent artistically. Then again, don’t take it from me, I’m no expert on pretentiousness (beyond my writing, of course), and no huge fan of Malick either, so maybe this is your film-heroin thing. 4/10

And finally:

  • The Hitman’s Bodyguard (2017):  Can I be excused now and rate this very average, but occasionally humorous, buddy comedy a tad higher than an ambitious art-house movie? Ryan Reynolds and nearly 70-year old Samuel L. Jackson team up to play contract killer protector and contract killer in this snarky movie that brings nothing new to the table – well, Jackson does bring his best ‘motherfucker’ game on the day, but as Reynold’s character justifiably points out:

This guy single-handedly ruined the word motherfucker.

So…I don’t know, if you want a light laugh, this might work. People seem to have enjoyed it. Me, not so much. Great to see Amsterdam once more, though. 5/10

 

Movies of the Weeks #31 #32 (2017)

I knew the day would come for me to squeeze in two weeks in one without writing excessively. Well, here it is. The day.

Movie of the Weeks

Sense and Sensibility (1995)

Sense and Sensibility

Tuesday, the week before

  • Dunkirk (2017): Nolan’s big war movie reintroduces that which set him apart in Memento (2000) – unusual time mechanics. Here, the three story layers unfold over different time frames, converging in the moments of the Dunkirk evacuation. It proved very effective to me and made the movie stand out beyond the sheer scale and competency with which it was produced. The sense of captivity, of hopelessness and despair, were reinforced by the clever timeline overlaps of the three layers. It’s silly, but I got a similar feeling watching Triangle (2009). The ultimately positive movie experience wears the blemish of a dollop of patriotism at the end, but it was expected from a venture striving for a bit of the mainstream. 8/10

Wednesday, the week before

  • Sense and Sensibility (1995): Full disclosure: I am a bit of a Jane Austen fan, or at least a fan of of Austen-movies/mini-series. I managed to dig deep into Pride & Prejudice, so deep I struck some zombies on the way to the bottom. Or perhaps that was the bottom. Anyway, S&S is a true classic, with a phenomenal cast, considerably more star-laden than the mini-series of Pride and Prejudice (1995) released the same year, which pretty much defined Colin Firth’s career for a long time. Emma Thompson’s sensibilities are key here and they manage to do modern day justice to Austen’s romantic ironies of two centuries ago. At times I do wonder whether this whole striving for a good marriage thing is too archaic to remain interesting, but it’s in the nuances where good adaptations set themselves apart from lesser ones. The nuances here are spot-on. 8/10

Thursday, the week before

  • The Bleeder (2016): As a big Rocky fan, once I read about the making of this movie – the story of Chuck Wepner, whose fight against Muhammad Ali supposedly inspired Stallone – I had to watch it. The quality execution of a so-so real life story makes it worth its time for those who have an interest in boxing/fights, but ultimately, the movie lacks punch (haha, I had to). 6/10

Monday

  • The Remains of the Day (1993): After watching S&S, I realized my grave shortcomings in Emma Thompson’s movie portfolio. Simply pouncing on the first thing at hand, the sensitive historical drama centering on a butler in the service of a pro-German lord around the war proved another positive experience. The picture got eight Academy Awards nominations, but no love in the shape of golden statues, although both Thompson and Anthony Hopkins were great. Perhaps it had something to do with another WW2 centric movie being released that year, a small thing entitled Schindler’s List (1993). The Remains is definitely more limited in scale, but with a wider chronological spread, which makes it both more intimate and providing historical perspective. 8/10

Wednesday 

  • Mamma Mia (2008): Rewatching Mamma Mia on a whim comes as naturally to me as opening a Youtube tab and putting on some ABBA – though the latter is definitely more effective. Gathering a bunch of stars of whom none can really sing is the one element that bothered me most when I first saw the musical. Now, I was fascinated by how easily all these popular ABBA songs could be woven into a coherent (sappy, overly sentimental, unlikely) story. Alas, unless you’re as big an ABBA fan as I am, it’s hard to recommend this stuff. 6/10

Saturday

  • Tootsie (1982): I had seen Mrs. Doubtfire (1993) as a child, so with that in mind, I gave Tootsie a go. The Oscar winning movie (Jessica Lange – Actress in a Supporting Role) posits some pertinent questions of the movie-making establishment without being too preachy about it. Out-of-work actor Michael (Dustin Hoffman) tempestuously decides to audition for a female role and actually gets it – by undermining the gender stereotypes for even the soapiest of TV show. It works exceptionally well both as a critique of structural misogyny, and a witty piece of comedy. Some suspension of disbelief is required, especially in regards to the ending, but in a sense the disbelief that a man could play a women for so long, unbeknown to so many, is just a funny jab at the lack of interest of who the woman really is – beyond an unassailable sexual conquest, of course. 8/10