At my most prolific when the year begins, the second week of 2018 brings with itself a respectable crop, with the one non-2017 movie taking the laurels.
As you may or may not have noticed, I’m trying to keep the interest alive on facebook by posting some tid-bits immediately after watching something, with the full on take (or whatever this is) scheduled for the beginning of the following week. Hopefully this will help bring to your attention some viewing choices.
Movie of the Week
Howards End (1992)
A poker movie not about poker
- Molly’s Game (2017): Watching an Aaron Sorkin movie is like going to McDonald’s – you know what you’re getting and you’ll probably feel bad about it a day later. Sorkin, after achieving quite a reputation as a screenwriter, to the level of Charlie Kaufman one might argue, takes over the director’s helm for the first time here. The result is an exciting, if uneven retelling of Molly Bloom’s story, “an Olympic-class skier who ran the world’s most exclusive high-stakes poker game and became an FBI target.”. You’ll have your Sorkin-esque zippy talk, voice-over, literary references, metaphors fed with organic ink, and impassioned speeches, which all come across pretty well, thanks to Jessica Chastain’s and Idris Elba’s performances. If anything, I could have done with a little less cleavage screen-time from Chastain, but I guess that went with the job – a Sorkin movie isn’t just metaphorically sexy, after all. Certain scenes felt like a let down unfortunately, and having your foot on the viewer’s jugular can become tiresome at some point. Molly’s Game tries hard to reach The Social Network’s (2010) gait and posture, but lacks Fincher’s steadfast touch, which somehow still found time to be sensitive, not just forceful. 7/10
Oh, oh you’re in the army, now
- Thank You for Your Service (2017): It’s terribly difficult to make a fresh and relevant movie about war or the consequences of war, especially in the United States. It’s perhaps wrong to say that there’s such a thing as war-movie fatigue, but there’s some truth to it. TYfYS take a hard, harsh look at the lives of three young soldiers returning from active duty, who are scarred to hell and back, while finding it next to impossible to get the help they require in order to function as social human beings. I wasn’t sure it would stick to me, but Miles Teller’s performance grounded, even personified a struggle which otherwise might have been written off as too generic. It works and feels. Yeah, it works and feels. 7/10
Did some big tennis tournament just start?
- Borg McEnroe (2017): The second much-lauded tennis movie of 2017 (alongside Battle of the Sexes) is almost a success. It brings us up close to Bjorn Borg and, to a lesser degree I felt, to Johnnie Mac, painting at least one enticing portrait. The Swedish former number one, whose relationship with Romanian tennis player Mariana Simionescu is also portrayed, offers a great sense of the kind of self-management one needs to prove capable of in order to turn and channel your energy towards the positive. From all my tennis playing, which is not much at all, I’ve felt that the sport tended to bring out my inner most competitor, with myself always on the other side of the net, regardless of who the actual opponent was. You get that from BvM. Unfortunately, the drawn out dramatization of the 1980 Wimbledon final is plagued by all the imaginable commentary cliches, which definitely diminished my appreciation of the scenes. The attempt to portray two complicated personalities in one movie also falls short, which is why I can’t fully recommend an otherwise exciting, at points beautiful movie. 7/10
Those old school Brits, what a halfway non-ironic joy
- Howards End (1992): A sort of insider’s take on class in the British society of the early 1900s, the three time Academy Award winning picture by James Ivory defines the word “lavish”. In a complex story of social dynamics and expectations, E.M. Forster’s novel really fleshes out what assumed privilege looks like, wherein the protagonists don’t even fathom asking the same questions of themselves as they ask of others. It’s just not in their mental syntax. The final scene is a marvelous example thereof. An all around great cast and a beautiful classical score accompanying the not quite as stellar of a story work in unison to create a good movie. 8/10
Some good old ultraviolence
- Mayhem (2017): The ‘i-hate-my-job-i’m-going-to-kill-everyone’ movie of the week award definitely goes to Mayhem. A virus that diminishes self-control spreads in an office building that’s just ripe for some revenge fetishes to be indulged in. All hell ensues, in a playful and violent exorcism of ‘nine to five’ fatigue, which makes the movie play out like a videogame, with levels and bosses and all the usual kapow. If you don’t mind the PG-13 visual levels of gruesome violence, Mayhem can and does provide a charming make-belief distraction from the bitter feuds of the work place. 7/10
- Professor Marston and the Wonder Women (2017): It’s always an interesting surprise to find out more, a totally unexpected side about an accepted mainstream figure and its origins. William Marston, the creator of Wonder Woman, was quite the polyamorous professor of psychology and is relationship with his wife and their mistress (one of them) is incisively portrayed here. The two, of course, were the inspiration to the ‘most famous’ female superhero. With a greater sexual load and more perversion than I could have expected, PMatWW surprised me most pleasantly and that’s not just because I’m a perverted human being. It did so by pleading an eloquent case for free love. However, it loses points when it comes to nuances, which are lacking. This leads to a certain lack of veracity and depth, the presence of which would really have made the movie memorable. 7/10
So, how many movies are you going to watch this year? Last year was a bit of a disappointment, with less than 200 pics for me, ranking as one of my least prolific years since 2007. You say ‘give me more numbers’? I say get your own.
Here’s to more of the same!
Movie of the Week
Mary Poppins (1964)
Fearing the ‘sequel’
- Mary Poppins (1964): There’s no better way to starting the year than with a movie you love, just so it reminds you of how regardless of the passage of time, some things just stay the same. Unless they change, in which case it sucks and you have my commiseration. It’s funny, I never really thought of Mary Poppins as my favourite childhood movie, although I recall reading some of the books as well. Now, however, I feel it takes me away to a place filled with a mixture of happiness and despair at the end of which I always come back to reality behind a veil of tears. It’s hard to say exactly why it concludes that way for me, as I adore the glee of the songs, the eclectic visual style and the all-around performances. Bar a couple of scenes which I never really took to, Mary Poppins is a flawless children’s tale filled with the horrors of adulthood. Also, scary Mary. 9/10
- Marshall (2017): There’s little special about Marhsall, a competent, by the numbers, court drama portraying one of Thurgood Marshall’s pivotal cases in the NAACP’s fight for equality during the American 1930s. As the African American cause is tentatively conjoined with Jewish suffering due to Marshall teaming up with Sam Friedman in their attempt to defend a black servant of having raped his white, socialite mistress. The story of the case is unspectacular, as is the courtroom drama, but the odd moment of inspired rhetoric raises the movie above the average. Add to that the wasted talents of Dan Stevens and James Cromwell, pegged in a couple of steretoypical roles, and you’ve got an idea of the vaguely interesting, but not at all riveting tale that Marshall amounts to. 6/10
The re-quel that works
- Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017): As a fan of the original, I was skeptical the new Jumanji could bring anything to the table. Robin Williams carried the original, a dark venture into the unknown which has etched a profound mistrust towards boardgames deep into my core. This reboot/remake moves a step up in the direction of video-games and focuses the story on high-school dynamics and stereotypes. As the four protagonists are absorbed into the world of Jumanji, they take on some really cool avatars, in the form of Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Tori Bl…erm, sorry, I meant Karen Gillan, and Kevin Hart. These guys carry the movie in what ends up being a thoroughly enjoyable run through the jungle, making it 2 for 3 in the Johnson catalog of jungle warfare. 7/10
The one that doesn’t
- Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017): Everything that worked well in the first Kingsman feels tired, overused and inferior in this second one – from the heroes, to the villains to the sub-villains. As Jeron0 lovingly put it on icheckmovies: “My least favorite movie starring Jeff Bridges, Julianne Moore and bowling balls.” I’ve already wiped it away from my mind and refuse to recall anything else about it. 4/10
Una noticia HUGE
- Nosotros los Nobles (2013): This silly little Mexican thing about a father wanting to teach his spoiled children a lesson by faking poverty on them is an enjoyable fare. It stars Karla Souza, who seems to have popped up fairly often in my viewing patterns over the last six months. With four protagonists to cover, Nosotros los Nobles does a surprisingly fine job in offering each of them a chance to feign character particularities, strewn along a thoroughly predictable and dubious storyline. I even chuckled at times. 6/10
A mustache away from greatness
- The Hero (2017): The last collaboration between director Brett Haley and actor Sam Elliott was the successful I’ll See You in My Dreams (2015). There’s a lot of dreaming in this one as well, as The Hero takes on the same life-departing themes, just from a different angle. Lee (Sam Elliott) is a 70+ years old actor and is faced with his own mortality after receiving a cancer diagnosis. The whole introspective/escapist gig that follows is at times emotional, at other times frivolously masculine, while generally suffering from a lack of definite purpose. That’s what makes The Hero less exciting than Haley’s previous movie, although it’s not all bad. 6/10
End of the year bonanza!
Movie of the weeks
Bulworth (1998): It might sound silly, but I haven’t had such a good time with a movie I had no expectations of in many, many months! Bulworth is pretty despised in some corners of the internet, even considered a cinematic abomination, but that all went beyond me. The movie takes on the ‘politician-gone-mad-before-reelection’ spin and provides a racially charged debate on the issues of segregation, big business and social disparity within the US in the mid-nineties. All to the tune and rhythm of a stereotypical white man’s idea of rap. Yeah. It might not be completely convincing in its arguments, but the verve Warren Beatty brings to the experience is something else. More so, this probably ranks as my favourite Halle performance, even ahead of her award-winning performance in Monster’s Ball (2001) and I’m not even kidding. That’s not to say that her part in Bulworth has more depth, but still. So yeah, quite the crazy joy ride! 8/10
The Spirit of Christmas (2015): Is there even such a thing as a good movie with ‘Christmas’ in the title? I tried my luck again after last week’s A Christmas Prince (2017), but it didn’t help. In this approach, a know-it-all-except-how-to-love lawyer lady is sent to ensure the appraisal of a ‘haunted’ inn, where she finds a damned handsome ghost to keep her company. As she tries to help me figure out why he’s stuck there for, presumably, all eternity, the two grow fond of each other and nothing exciting happens. The end. There’s little to recommend this movie for, with the best thing I can write about it being that it feels competent enough. What’s definitely lacking is any and all Christmas charm. 4/10
The Battle of the Sexes (2017): This wannabe underdog story lacks the emotional punch to be truly satisfying, but manages to emphasize the right things along the way. It’s all about the show, American style, and if there’s a cause behind it, well that’s just an unexpected benefit. Emma Stone (as Billie Jean King) and Steve Carell (as Bobby Riggs) inhabit a couple of lackluster characters that happen to have a lot of nuance to them – even too much, at times, for the scope of the movie. With so many things going on, side characters really get tossed aside as soon as they’ve played some narrative purpose, the old and the conventional is villainized stereotypically, and there’s just not enough time to flesh out a riveting story. At least the tennis looked fine. 6/10
Trevor Noah: Afraid of the Dark (2017): Trevor Noah is a talented enough comedian to hold an audience for one hour without being original or very funny. I never took to him as the The Daily Show host, but I didn’t give him much of a chance either. In this stand up not much of the material made me rethink my lack of patience towards ‘the new guy’. Noah’s accents are amusing, but by themselves they offer little in terms of entertainment. A cluster of uninspiring anecdotes, littered with the odd, heavy handed reflective moment, amount to this show barely getting a passing grade. 5/10
Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (2012): For whatever obscure reason, I ended up watching this, without even having seen the ‘original’. I’m quite certain I did not miss much, with Journey 2 building up to a tame, uninteresting CGI fest, with truly obnoxious and stereotypical characters. Not even Dwayne Johnson manages to ‘bring it’. Perhaps that’s why I ended up watching J2, was that I thought it to be connected with The Rock’s previous jungle movie, The Rundown (2003). Silly me. Which is not to say that Jumanji 2 (2017)or Rampage (2018) (the latter also directed by this pic’s helmer, Brad Peyton) might not all form a miraculous Rock-niverse with unspoken connections. 4/10
Viceroy’s House (2017): An interesting movie about the British departure from India and the country’s split with Pakistan is watered down by a godawful romance melodrama that defies belief, no matter how much it’s inspired from a true story. I realized how ignorant I am of the historical context concering almost any non-European country during the last century, which, I guess, means I should be watching some documentaries, not dramatizations. For what it’s worth, the movies kept my attention and had it not been let down by Gurinder Chadha choices in regards to the script and the directorial focus, it could have really been worth recommending. 6/10
Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017): One can never repeat enough that he/she is not a Star Wars fan before critiquing the movies, just like those disclaimers advertisers have to use when promoting pharmaceuticals. That being said, it’s hard to understand the critical adulation of an okay, but unimpressive story which simply evades anything that seems unsafe. When it’s not pushing hard to cater to the new generation of fans, the occasionally ruinous dialogue or the abomination of a plot keep the whole thing from really engaging beyond the showmanship. And, heck, the showmanship is good, I felt my heart racing at times, but on each occasion that the thing could’ve left a mark, it veered away into the inconsequential. This plethora of universe building movies, be it the makings of Star Wars, Marvel’s Avengers, DC’s Justice League, etc. is just tiresome. At their best, the movies are a spectacle and The Last Jedi scores highly on this scale. At their worst, they are underdeveloped and overcooked, another scale on which TLS rests near the unwelcome top. 6/10
Commando (1985): aka the original Taken (2008) on steroids. The absolute Schwarzenegger vehicle in which the man not only saves his kidnapped daughter, but also manages to kill an army-sized militia single handedly while charming the pants off a stewardess he kindly abducts early on in the story. All within twelve hours. Not a bad day’s work. It’s silly as hell, sure, but, damn it, wasn’t Arnie a lot of fun back in the day? Like that final fight, where he takes on a former comrade and it looks like Schwarzenegger is in the best commando shape of his life, while the other guy seems to have taken up a career as an oversized Freddie Mercury impersonator? And all those one-liners? Just good, good 80s fun! 7/10
I don’t know what I’m doing, I haven’t seen a really good movie in a while and it’s all due to my very conscious selection patterns. Once again, this week’s top choice is more commendable for the attempt, not the result. Ah well.
Movie of the Week
The Wizard of Lies (2017)
A Christmas Prince (2017): It’s hard to find many redeeming qualities to this heavily cliched Christmas flick, boasting wedding-level cinematography and Sunday-theater acting. The story – a journalist gets her big break when she is sent to cover the story of a coronation ceremony, then mischievously stays on as a tutor for the impaired princess – is riddled with the expected and encumbered by spectacularly lazy screen-writing. If there are some things working in its favour, it starts with the lavishly beautiful Peles Castle, which is one of my preferred Romanian places to visit. Ben Lamb provides a convincing prince, Honor Kneafsey manages to score some likability points, but I was not taken with Rose McIver, playing the lead. It’s a shame, really, because I enjoyed McIver in iZombie; alas, there’s next to no chemistry between her and Lamb. So, yeah, hard to recommend, even for the Christmas fanatics amongst y’all. 4/10
Victoria & Abdul (2017): Heeey, here’s my weekly non-Indian movie portraying Indians in a one-dimensional way. Unfortunately, Stephen Frears really disappoints with this one, a bland story about Queen Victoria’s relationship with a Muslim Indian servant, which simply fails to find a compelling focus. There’s more to life than being constantly reminded what jerks those guys in the British Empire were. 5/10
Stronger (2017): This renewed take on the Boston marathon bombings proves to be a fairly by the numbers, yet emotional representation of an everyday hero’s tale. Starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Tatiana Maslany, two actors in top form, the movie provides some grisly visuals, although it works best when focusing on the pain of its protagonists. What it also does well is that it keeps its lead hero real, to show that life-changing injuries are not guaranteed to perfect one’s imperfections as a human being. All in all, Stronger is a slight improvement on last year’s Patriot’s Day (2016). 7/10
The Wizard of Lies (2017): I am still constantly impressed by the caliber of TV movies nowadays. This HBO production about Ponzi scheme ‘artist’ Bernard Madoff stars Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Alessandro Nivola and Nathan Darrow and feels very familiar. A bit of Margin Call (2011), a bit of The Big Short (2015), a bit of The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) in an exposition style narrative about Madoff’s downfall. It’s a fine movie, but it tries very hard to be more than just that, failing in the process. At almost 135 minutes runtime, you get an idea of the complexities under the surface, but the team behind this pic never dig deep enough to really flesh out all the characters. As a consequences, the tale of the two brothers feels more like a tag-on working towards discrediting Madoff as a family man and never really gels. Factually, little light is shed on how the guy managed to rip off so many big players in the financial markets, what was really going on with the money and why we should care. I mean sure, there’s a lot of the latter going on, with impassioned pleas of the non-millionaires who got ripped off in the process, but that feels like pandering, more than anything. The film never really ‘bites’, although it tries to, only to ultimately err on the side of caution and treat Madoff with gentility. A shame, because it felt at times that it could really have been something special. 7/10
A very light week once again, with some foodies, some romcomies, some biopicies…that got out of hand quickly. Hard to pick a stand-out, but I’ll go with nostalgia and feel-good, seeing how Christmas is just around the corner.
Movie of the Week
Definitely Maybe (2008)
The original before the remake
- Mostly Martha (2001): The original to the Zeta-Jones/Eckhart remake, No Reservations (2007), is a cute little thing. A workaholic chef, Martha, is faced with an unexpected challenge in her stifled life and has to find answers to questions she seems to never have asked. The foodie-pic boasts some gorgeous desert talk and a relatable lead, but I felt it was let down by a rushed ending. Additionally, the version I watched had dubbed the co-protagonist, Mario, because Sergio Castellitto, who played the part, wasn’t fluent enough in German – a major charisma turn-off. Not sure if there is a version without dubbing, but if it exists, it’s worth the effort to get the most out of MM. 6/10
500 Days of Maybe
- Definitely, Maybe (2008): Rewatching DM proved quite the sweet, nostalgic experience. Suddenly, with hindsight, I realize how much it’s just a movie version of How I Met Your Mother (2005), as well as the influence it had on 500 Days of Summer (2009) – down to the names! Anyway, as far as sappy romcoms are concerned, it’s rarely the set-up that matters, but more the chemistry between the star-crossed lovers, who are well and on their way if they’re aided and abetted by decent dialogue from time to time. Ryan Reynolds, Isla Fisher, Elizabeth Brooks and Rachel Weisz are all quite awesome, so much that disbelief is duly suspended to validate this modern fairy tale ignited by Bill Clinton. 7/10
Mathematics meets spiritualism
- The Man Who Knew Infinity (2015): It’s hard to take a movie about sciences seriously when one of its characters, a professor at Cambridge moreover, claims that Newton ‘invented gravity’. Yet, this is just one of the smaller faults of TMWKI, a formulaic and trite attempt at telling a story about mathematics by reducing it to a duality of faith and proofs. The story of Ramanujan and Hardy, littered with a couple of other significant Cambridge lecturers who only serve as narrative tools, isn’t all bad, in spite of bathing neck deep in the cliched stereotype of the mystical Indian. In truth, that’s pretty much what Ramanujan claimed to be and faith played an important part in who he was not only as a human being, but also as a mathematician. What the movie failed at is to really flesh out his character, to make it at least as interesting as cab number 1729 (inside joke there). Perhaps a more experienced director/writer than Matthew Brown could’ve milked more than just sentimentality out of TMWKI. 5/10
In preparation for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
- The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio (2005): An in-form Julianne Moore just about keeps this piece of film-making afloat. Set in the American 1960s, the unusual story of the forlorn, yet stoic housewife gets a twist thanks to the game shows that used to run on TV all the time and challenge people at home, with prizes up for grabs. Basically, Moore’s character here is a copywriter before there really was a market for copywriters and her obvious talent for words is only surpassed by her ability to keep a good-willing attitude towards her atrocious husband. It’s an unusual anti-feminist push by an otherwise pro-feminist movie and it feels out of place as a mere side-story, the marital abuse. This degree of tolerance disquieted me somehow, in spite of a story that’s generally agreeable. 6/10
When people bring more than wine to a party
- The Party (2017): Theatre-esque movie setups, very heavy on dialogue, can be quite exhilarating. I thoroughly enjoyed Polanski’s Carnage (2011), which bears some familiarity to Sally Potter’s The Party. Unfortunately, this newer effort feels mostly strung out and the bunch of characters grouped together for a mere seventy minutes don’t work up the chemistry to blow the lid, as they do, towards the end. In spite of some agreeable performances and the odd chuckle, this dinner party never amounts to anything beyond some vague allegorical hint as to our striving for some miraculous ideal of self-validation and self-absorption. 6/10
The lack of productivity from two weeks ago forced me to postpone all reviewing endeavours. It’s going to be obvious though that Defending your Life and The Trip are part of a different mind frame to the latter choices. Unfortunately, in spite of the number of movies I indulged, none really stood out for a movie of the week recommendation. For the sake of it, I’ll award it to…
Movie of the Weeks
The Trip (2010)
Another stop in…
Defending Your Life (1991): Back in Brooks-land, Rip Torn was tearing it up (sorry, had to). The premise of this Brooks-Streep picture is that people get judged on their life after they pass and if they did well, they move on to another life, if they didn’t, they get a do-over. I can’t say I was taken with this set-up and the execution did little to elevate. After almost two hours of ‘defending’, we get rewarded with a moving final sequence, even though, again, the build-up for it left me unconvinced. The key to life, if I am to spoil it for y’all, is to be bold and to be willing to take chances. I guess that’s true. 6/10
The Trip (2010): A long time ago, when the TV series this is based on was first released, I gobbled it up. It’s not riveting film-making, but the charisma the two protagonists bring to an otherwise picturesque trip around Northern England makes the difference. If you like your derivative conversations, your impressions and your food, and are also in need of travel destinations, The Trip is here to help. As a movie, it feels like a bit more should have ended up in the editing room, with quite the dollop of redundancy left to draw things out inelegantly. Beyond that, recommended. 7/10
Blockbuster-thon of movies…
The Mummy (2017): Wow, talk about a movie in which next to nothing works. A jumbled story, feeding off a bunch of iconic monster lores, attempts to reboot a franchise which never really required rebooting. To do this, they brought together a powerful duo, in Tom Cruise and Russell Crowe, but gave them an inane script and some atrocious counterparts. Cruise’s lack of chemistry with co-star Annabelle Wallis is the true horror of this movie, which just can’t find a place for itself: should it be scary? should it make you laugh? is it a light adventure? should anyone care at all? Bottom line, I didn’t, and really rooted for some relief towards the end, perhaps in the form of the unexpected. Alas, not all wishes are to be fulfilled in life. If anything good can be said about The Mummy, it’s that it should have stuck more with the horror, because that worked alright and baddie Sofia Boutella was pretty cool. That and the fact that Tom Cruise’s running finds screen time again. 4/10
…that I’ve purposefully ignored…
The Fate of the Furious (2017): I’ve never been a big fan of the franchise, but even my cynical bones appreciated the fifth installment, which somehow revitalized a dying idea. In the process, what FF initially stood for, racing and walking the illegal line, has either been tossed to the side or re-imagined as support items to an elite kill squad. The plot on this Fate of the Furious is terribly inane, with The Rock and Jason Statham providing the odd quality moments. Beyond their contribution, the plethora of chase scenes, aimed at topping each other off, didn’t dazzle me much. These big ticket items have started feeling so streamlined, that even when they do get everything right, it still manages to feel wrong. FF8 would be a worthy poster child. 5/10
…because I was quite expecting them…
Minions (2015): It’s rare that a 90 minute movie feels so long, but Minions manages this astounding feat. In fact, the whole shindig is barely 80 minutes long, with a couple of musical moments tagged on at the end to round things out. I did enjoy the original Despicable Me, which had a bit of a twist and the minions were amusing side characters. As the main act, it’s hard to make them stand out. Really though, the movie is so unambitious that there was no way it could have been anything but a slightly enjoyable fast-forward experience. The odd song or gag will provide respite from what is otherwise a dull show, targeted solely at the younger audience members inside us all. The ones we skewered for breakfast. 5/10
…to be really underwhelming.
Beauty and the Beast (2017): There’s always a funny feeling, when one of your childhood movies pops up in a different form. The animated Beauty and the Beast (1991) was, alongside The Lion King (1994), one of my favourites, growing up. This live-action recreation has a lot of glitz and, for the most part, works well enough. However, it does itself no favours in adding forty minutes to the original, while also suffering due to a lack of charisma in its protagonists, whose romance blossomed so fast, my suspension of disbelief couldn’t keep up. So, yes, watch the animated version first, if you haven’t. Then, maybe, give this a shot. 6/10
The Little Hours (2017): God, after all that blockbuster-y stuff, I needed to get away for a night. TLH was just that and more, poking fun at the stiff convent lifestyle of the olden days and making it feel like high-school. With a familiar looking cast (Aubrey Plaza, Alison Brie, John C. Reilly, Dave Franco), the movie works for the most part, but never feels bitingly satirical enough – all that sex humor doesn’t really bring much to the table. Director Jeff Baena also wrote/directed the lukewarm Joshy (2016) and the equally unconvincing Life After Beth (2014), which sort of makes TLH a step in the right direction. 6/10
Blablablablablabla. And did I mention, bla!
Movie of the Week
- 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
A blockbuster as the pick of the week, who’d have thunk it?
Movie of the Week
Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
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
- 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
- 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
It’s all the same, day in, day out. Rinse and repeat. This week’s theme.
Movie of the Week
Groundhog Day (1993)
- 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
- 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