Movies of the Week #1 #2 (2019)

New year looks new.


On Addictions and Other Things

  • The Monster (2016): As a horror movie, The Monster is bland and boring. As a take on alcohol addiction, it’s not a bad piece of allegorical work. This must be why critics have given it some decent reviews, as opposed to the stark 5.4 it garnered on IMDb. I did think the atmosphere failed to really get under your skin, whereas the characters worked up an engaging story. The gist of it is that alcoholic mother is driving to drop off her daughter at her father’s, for an undetermined period of time. They get stuck in the woods and a monster rears its head. There are casualties. Addiction stuff. So yeah, not the worst failed horror movie I’ve seen. 6/10

A Childhood Stroll

  • Matilda (1996): I know for certain that I’ve seen Matilda before, but it was only the odd scene here or there that truly felt familiar. As one of the big movies of the 90s, a decade seemingly littered with highly successful movies about children, Matilda isn’t all that. It’s cute and honest, with a likable lead and a bunch of excellent villains – Pam Farris steals the show here. Beyond that, there wasn’t much to keep me interested in either the story, or its characters. Old age made me cynical, I’m afraid. 6/10

Back When Westerns Had Character

  • The Sisters Brothers (2018): You come across a movie directed by Jacques Audiard and starring the likes of John C. Reilly, Jake Gyllenhaal, Joaquin Phones and Riz Ahmed, and you are just bound to have phenomenal expectations. Then the movie trots about at a leisurely pace for half an hour and just as you start questioning the routinely Western events unfolding, the characters catch colour. They become distinctive, memorable, and as Audiard plays with the seen and the unseen, I found myself enraptured. As far as sibling movies go, this one is pretty high up there. 8/10

A Childhood Stroll Returns

  • Mary Poppins Returns (2018): It’s hard to find a much bigger MP fan than me. This movie is so meshed up into my childhood, every time I watch it, I get hit by a hurricane of emotions. Obviously, hearing of her return made me weary, although I did have faith it Emily Blunt. What came out was a very faithful recreation, almost scene by scene, which can be a worthy point of critique. However, Rob Marshall succeeded in also recreating some of that warm and tingly atmosphere, even without the aid of any iconic songs. It’s why, overall, I got to enjoying MPR, as a decent piece of fan service, if there even is such a thing as MP fans in need of it. 7/10

When Art Meets Commerce

  • Colette (2018): The story of Colette, the famous French writer of the eary 1900s that you’ve probably never heard of, has a penchant for the unusual, yet manages to feel tediously modern in most of its commentaries. This defied my expectations of authenticity and even if I’m totally in the wrong, it simply didn’t engage. Some very competent acting and a reasonably interesting story make up for its other shortcomings, but that’s meager consolation for what might have been a different experience altogether. 6/10

Movies of the Year #2018

I’ve only seen 69 movies released in 2018, with a bunch of the big ‘uns missing at this point. However, this does not limit my ability to string together a bunch of pics I enjoyed the heck out of and – as it so happens – their number stands at six, including some almost ineligible 2017 entries. No particular order, in spite of their different ratings.

But if I were to have a favourite, a most engrossing experience? The Tale.

Parenthood part x+2

  • Leave No Trace (2018): From the visionary director of Winter’s Bone (2010), wherein Jennifer Lawrence had her breakthrough performance, comes another tale of surviving in the wilderness. A father-daughter couple (didn’t we leave on this note all those weeks back?) survive together in a wildlife park near Portland in a rugged woman’s take on Captain Fantastic (2016). But this is no Captain Fantastic – no lush fairytale of happy hippies. It’s the story of a troubled war veteran who cannot adapt to society any more and now faces his daughter’s longing for a community. Thomasin McKenzie’s piercing glare will stay with you long after the movie is over, in a narratively austere, yet emotionally rich adventure into anti-modern America. Unlike Captain Fantastic’s bohemian pandering, Leave No Trace is a testament both for and against modern society, a taut and uncompromising coming of age story like few others. Have I used all the right buzzwords? 9/10

The real truth

  • The Tale (2018): Wow. Just wow. I don’t usually appreciate movies about abuse at all (well, you know what I mean), but The Tale approaches this semi-autobiographical story in an original, inspiring manner that I’ve never seen before. When our lead is faced with letters from her youth, her perception of how she grew up and the people she met along the way take a big hit. The way in which Jennifer sets out to rediscover the truth and cope with it is presented with so much tact and care, both narratively and cinematically, that I couldn’t help being enthralled with it. Director Jennifer Fox, upon whose experiences the movie is (loosely?) based, captures the evanescence of youth with great flair, while finding a perfectly suitable contrast to make it stand out against without becoming more grotesque than it is. The Tale proves to be one of the best movies I’ve seen this year, without a doubt. 9/10

Happy Go Lucky

  • Won’t You Be My Neighbor (2018): There was a lot of buzz surrounding a couple of unexpected documentaries this summer – the one about Ruth Bader Ginsburg and this, starring Fred Rogers. It’s not only the unexpected characters leading them that embrethrens them, but also their approach to the wider theme of how we build society and foster particular ways of thinking. More on RBG next week, because Mr. Rogers deserves a LOT of attention. The documentary is, really, a great piece of filmmaking, which reconstructs a man and his singular vision of how television can be used to teach children about the complexities of life. It’s an intricate story with surprising emotional heft, stemming from director Morgan Neville’s ability to bring Rogers into your living room. It doesn’t matter if you agree with everything (and the movie does shy away from controversy), because the overall experience is such a wholesome, uplifting one, that it will, in the least, change your day. That’s not a simple feat from a movie about an awkward man playing around with puppets. 9/10

Why are horses so resplendent?

  • The Rider (2017): What a glorious, heartfelt movie about passion and struggling against the odds! The Rider treads the thin-red-line between reality and fiction to paint this stern, yet touching story about Brady, a cowboy who suffers a head injury that impairs him from doing what he’s best at – riding and taming (breaking in) wild horses. You can sense the potential for metaphors and drama right there, and director Chloé Zhao manages to milk it to the very last drop without ever becoming melo. Great cinematography helps in creating the setting, while perfect pacing makes for one of the best Western-themed movies I’ve seen in a while. 8/10

Alternative sci-fi:

  • Sorry to Bother You (2018): The trailer to StBY is intriguing, but it’s greatest achievement lies in saying something while withholding the movie’s essence. What starts out as a corporate ladder climb dipped in racial observations, becomes a full blown social dissection by the end. It’s a no holds barred kind of experience – nothing’s off limits. Which also means that it might not be everyone’s cup of hot tea, but it felt pretty good to me. So as not to spoil anything, just go ahead and give it a try. 8/10

‘Good breeding gone bad’

  • Thoroughbreds (2017): In his very first movie, which Corey Finley wrote and directed, the filmmaker manages to create and capture a spectacularly tense atmosphere, vividly portrayed through the eyes and souls of two emotionally dejected youths. The atmosphere borrows articulately from Chan-wook Park’s Stoker (2013), but Finley’s characters stand out more. Amanda, a girl devoid of emotions, is sent by her mother to get tutored by Lily, an emotionally ambivalent character, with both treading deeply into dysfunctional territory. The movie wraps around your throat with the ominous delight of white privilege and a boa constrictor, without making any concessions. Might need a rewatch to promote it to ‘delight’ level, but it’s really close regardless! 8/10

Movies of the Week #52 (2018)

The Lukewarm Sequel Brigade Reporting for Duty!

  • Incredibles 2 (2018): As a big fan of the original, I was fairly anxious before this sequel – follow ups so many years later rarely stand out. In spite of the glowing reviews, all I took away from it was how much standards have changed. Incredibles 2 is a tame movie, rarely funny or witty, often settling for ‘cute’. The phoned in storyline does little to help, but at least it’s brave enough to provide a small twist on the villain’s side. Other than that, poor, old Mr. Incredible has to deal with being a more of a father and less of a superhero, while Mrs. Incredible gets the spotlight – shock and awe. Sadly, there’s not enough to this sequel to call it warranted, but it’s not so appalling to deplore its existence either. Just middle of the road. 6/10

Netflix Doesn’t Do It Again!

  • The Princess Switch (2018): The greatest challenge with all these Netflix Christmas movies is telling them apart. TPS, similarly to A Christmas Prince (and its sequel), is filmed in Romania and stars a bunch of affable actors in a tale with no pretenses and absolutely no ambitions. For all the Christmas hassle, the algorithms know what fits bets. In this one, two lookalikes, a baker and a to-be princess, go for the good old switcheroo, to sample ‘the other life’. If you succeed in not engaging your brain, time will go by smoothly. While TPS is arguably a tad better than ACP, thanks to a more robust cast and better production values, it’s still not fresh enough to warrant a passing grade. 4/10

I Still Don’t Eat Fish

  • Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2011): If you’re looking for a documentary that seamlessly binds food porn and enduring life principles, Jiro is the way to go. Seeing 85 year old Jiro run his little Tokyo sushi restaurant makes most 30 year olds blush for lack of discipline and vigor. I’m not certain it’s an inspirational journey, because work ethic is more deterministic than inherited, but it sure is impressive. The lush foods beings served in the subway-based Michelin starred joint make the whole thing feel introspectively romantic. 8/10

Newsflash: We’ve Sent a Man on the Moon

  • First Man (2018): While thoroughly competent and beautifully shot, Damien Chazelle’s newest pic shows too much restraint in retelling a very familiar story to be memorable. To its merit (and also causing some controversy), Chazelle painted the valiant effort in putting a man on the moon with little focus on the nationalistically driven space race. It’s mankind’s achievement, not the real-life equivalent of Rocky IV. Alas, whereas you can easily be appreciative of the subtle nuances that place FM above a pandering Michael Bay-esque trip to the moon, it’s not as easy to become immersed in it. 7/10

The Wild 70s

  • Roma (2018): One of the highlights of this year’s awards season is certain to be Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma. Chronicling the turmoil of the early 70s in Mexico, it provides a thoughtful approach of considerable depth by cross-pollinating the personal with the political. It’s the perspective most of us have on life, as we traverse it with our own joys and fears, merely glancing at most of the wider socio-political issues of our era. The story here is anchored by Cleo, the maid of a middle class family (so IMDb claims, I’d have thought it was at least upper-middle class) in Mexico, whose stoicism in the face of adversity is thoroughly endearing and profoundly humanistic. While class is definitely a topic in Roma, the film dares to claim that it can be transgressed by humanism, with people being people on a day to day basis, not primarily warriors of class welfare. And as soon as you detach yourself from people and attach yourself to ideas, life has a tendency to take on dark undertones. 8/10

Movies of the Week #50 #51 (2018)

The IT Squad

  • Searching (2018): An unusual thriller, shot through the perspective of computer screens, CCTV cameras and media footage, Searching unfolds neatly. It might feature some illogical decisions on behalf of its leading characters, yet it never feels like these ever really matter in your enjoyment of the experience. Unless you’re me, that is. The story – a girl disappears and his father tries desperately to find her, only to realize that he really doesn’t know his daughter. The ride is decent, you might like it more than I did. 6/10

Or the Adult Act

  • The Children Act (2017): A typical Ian McEwan tale of love and desire, of shackles and inevitabilities, TCA is built on a weak core, but stands reasonably tall thanks to Emma Thompson. Her character, Fiona Maye, is a judge dealing with intricate moral conundrums, while her own marriage falls to pieces. It’s the ageless question of how to balance love and work when you’re job can be all-consuming. What I really didn’t like is how weak her bond with hubby Jack (Stanley Tucci) appeared, which didn’t anchor the rest of the story well enough. There’s a general lack of balance in the narrative and its characters, which ultimately undermines the experience of this awfully titled movie. 6/10

At Humors End

  • Johnny English Strikes Again (2018): He might strike again, but he definitely isn’t striking any more. In spite of the charms of Rowan Atkinson, there’s very little that keeps the new Johnny English afloat, an uninspired series of gags that doesn’t leave much to the imagination. Sure, they’re pretty elaborate, but about as uninspired as a writer during the prohibition. Not much to recommend here, unless you want to gawk at Olga Kurylenko’s perfectly toned arms. 4/10

When the Hilton Comes Into Town

  • The American Meme (2018): For whatever reason, I thought this was a serious movie, analyzing…meme culture? To my surprise, it’s not about the memes I thought it was, but rather all sorts of social media ‘success stories’. Somehow, Paris Hilton and her tale of awesomeness overshadows everything else, a monument of strength in spite of the life she’s had as a media target. It’s quite ironic Hilton would complain about it, given that is how she became such a well known figure, the basis upon which her current commercial empire is built. She takes her executive producer role seriously and shamelessly tries to create a hagiography of herself more often than not. There are a couple other stories, following a bunch of very hard to like protagonists, not only because of how and what they portray on SM, but because there’s nothing special to them beyond their ability to tap into this ephemeral sphere of digital fame. Or at least nothing that the movies highlights. So beyond some more existential moments, The American Meme is pretty much a bust. 4/10

The Things of Wonder

  • Hable con Ella (2002): Whenever I rate movies, I allow a mark for those ‘once in a lifetime’ experiences, the stories that not only strike a perfect note, but that, as chance would have it, come about when that perfect note is most needed. On the day I saw Almodovar’s Talk To Her, which must have been about fifteen years ago by now, I had no idea what was I was going in for – which, to this day, is a key ingredient in a movie really sweeping me off my feet. I’ll never be a true critic, because there’s no fun in taking out the personal out of the experience; the fact that I rarely write more than a paragraph on anything might also factor into that. Anyway, getting back to that fateful day, I suffered a full-fledged emotional turnaround during the movie, which happened to coincide with the dispersal of all the clouds that had accompanied me during the walk to the cinema. As the fates of Benigno, Marco, Lydia and Alicia unfolded, it never struck me that it all amounted to a bizarre, disconcerting collision of loving, wounded people. Characters you only see for a couple of scenes take on an engrossing presence, which is the most anyone writer can hope for. Scenes which seem to simply exist because the director thought them beautiful provide faultless transitions. Almodovar is a master mood-setter and, to me, Hable con Ella is the most lyrical, tragically romantic movies he’s done. That anyone has ever done. 10/10

And as a side note, I recall a long time ago, when Hable con Ella sat next to another favourite of mine in the IMDb Top 250, The Green Mile. They were both hovering above the 100th position. Now, The Green Mile is as high as 31st, whereas Hable Con Ella has dropped out of the ranking. Take what you will out of this.

Movies of the Week #48 #49 (2018)

To all the Eyre’s I’ve loved before

  • Jane Eyre (2011): I might be more of a Jane Austen fan than of the Brontë sisters – due to the wit and lightness of the former’s stories. Yet, Jane Eyre, as embittered as it is in its tale of forlorn love, class struggles and fem-lib, caught my liking. The sombre tone might feel heavy at times, especially pushing the two hour mark. It’s the impressions that Fassbender and Mia Wasikowska make which ease the burden and make Jane Eyre a captivating watching. 7/10

What’s wrong about standing toe to toe, saying ‘I am’ ?

  • Creed II (2018): I’m generally taken with movies about father-son relationships and Creed surprises in this regard. It’s a slight evolution from Rocky 4, with the Russian (Romanian) machine springing emotional leaks at unexpected moments. Other than that, there are few unexpected turns in this second go at the Creed spin-off, which hits all its marks with satisfactory efficiency. If anything, the sense of how much Stallone has aged – and we alongside him – is my biggest takeaway from the movie. Also, it dearly reminded me of one of the best College Humor parodies ever – enjoy7/10

The one they’ll jump on when I’m asked to host the Oscars

  • Widows (2018): What a thoroughly disappointing flick. Just one of those heist movies employing the gender reversal card, a movie that has the pretense of providing political commentary on top of it all. Needless to say, almost all male characters are profoundly rotten, whereas the widows are true heroins of self-empowerment. Sure, the set pieces were fine, the acting was fine, but I failed to get behind this – not so much because my male ego felt injured, but because the movie wants to be more than it is, which is a capital sin in my book. 5/10

 A flurry of old and new cult feelings

  • Apostle (2018): Few movies do sound and atmosphere as well as Apostle does. Starring the ever-likable Dan Stevens, this story of a man going off to a cult-island to recover his kidnapped sister has a good set-up, with Michael Sheen providing an adequately conflicted antagonist. There’s just a dab of the supernatural in this, which makes it more bearable to me, but ultimately the movie is about cults and power. Unfortunately, it falters in the second half due to a ‘run for the hills’ mentality in finding closure. Still, a good watch for the initiated. 6/10

If you like your politics after a lobotomy

  • A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding (2018): If the first one wasn’t enough for you, then Netflix knows. It’s why it put out a sequel to last year’s Prince, which takes on some bold, new cliches that it somehow missed out on in the original. Thankfully, the cast is still agreeable and the shots of Peles castle feature just as much, which makes the movie less obnoxious than it might otherwise have been. 4/10

Movies of the Weeks #46 #47 (2018)

The Perennial Nazi Cravings

  • Overlord (2018): The trailer raised my expectations to untenable levels, with its Wolfenstein-esque vibe and brutal gore. While holding the standard for the violence went alright, the story is just a rehashed version of the nazi-zombies oeuvre, with the crazed Germans going about their villanous affairs with relentlessness. Add to that the cardboard characters, heavily influenced by many other movies you will know, and you might get an idea of why some genre purists disliked Overlord. Yet, it succeeds in creating some strong visual set-pieces, with the opening ten minutes stealing the show for a while and the uncompromising gore splashing enjoyable on the big screen. So a 6/10 from me. 

Shooting One’s Hat Off

  • The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018): A fresh Western anthology seems like an unlikely endeavour, even for the Coens. Or maybe it is particularly for them that it seems not. Regardless, they’ve put together a solid crop of stories, with small twists that lets each stand out, as they paint an entertaining and witty picture of human nature. Death is to be encountered in all, yet feeling different each time around, thanks to the fleshed-out characters and their very particular predicaments. It’s never a joke, but it does occasionally look like an ironic semicolon. 8/10 

Celebrity Curse Part I

  • My Dinner with Hervé (2018): I had not seen a biographical movie in a while, so this proved an adequate change of pace. Peter Dinklage sells the story of Herve Villechaize, „the most famous dwarf” until Dinklage himself, perhaps. My recollection of Fantasy Island, the series that made a staple of the French actor, is sparse, yet I do have an inkling to have seen episodes of it in the 90s. Covering the latter days of Villechaize’s life, MDwH retells his story through the eyes of a reporter, the to-be writer and director of the movie, interpreted unconvincingly by Jamie Dornan. Still, there’s some factual curiosities and just about enough emotional heft to it, to keep thing interesting, mostly thanks to Dinklage and his performance. 7/10

Celebrity Curse Part II

  • A Star is Born (2018)One of the most acclaimed movies of the year, the Bradley Cooper directed re-imaging of the classic A Star is Born feels like a real sucker-punch – or several, strung after one another. With the emotional brutality of Requiem for a Dream and several passionate musical numbers led by Lady Gaga and Cooper himself, ASiB is certain to not leave you indifferent, making up for the familiar story.  8/10

This is Not Time Travel

  • Source Code (2011): The thoroughly enjoyable sci-fi repeat-a-thon was the last good movie made by director Duncan Jones (whose previous credits included Moon (2009)). It is set in a universe so far away, that early on one character asks another whether their phone has the internet. This never ceases to amaze me, so many contrived plots would be rendered pointless in the smartphone age. This one too, I guess, but Source Code goes truly sci-fi and plays its mystery card well, thanks also to the strong cast that it boasts. 7/10

Few Movies of Many Weeks #41-45 (2018)

I come forth from the abyss and present to you the meager scrapings from the netherworld.

MotW46

Alternative sci-fi:

  • Sorry to Bother You (2018): The trailer to StBY is intriguing, but it’s greatest achievement lies in saying something while withholding the movie’s essence. What starts out as a corporate ladder climb dipped in racial observations, becomes a full blown social dissection by the end. It’s a no holds barred kind of experience – nothing’s off limits. Which also means that it might not be everyone’s cup of hot tea, but it felt pretty good to me. So as not to spoil anything, just go ahead and give it a try. 8/10

When your dreams turn into romcom nightmares:

  • Juliet, Naked (2018): This is one of the lighter movies of the week, starring Rose Byrne, Ethan Hawke and Chris O’Dowd, in a story about relationships and obsession that doesn’t pan out exactly how you’d expect. I won’t go any deeper into the plot, because that would already be saying too much about it. In a way, it’s a movie about love by proxy, life opening doors you never thought existed and then taking you somewhere completely different. Well, maybe I’m overhyping all this unexpectedness, thirty minutes in you’ll probably guess how this ends, but I’m ruminating on the wider implications of the scenario within. Just take it as it is. 7/10

Parenthood part x+1

  • Thunder Road (2018): The similarities to 2015’s Krisha are stark – writer/director (plus lead in this case) takes on family themes in a short movie, before expanding it to a full fledged story about a functionally dysfunctional parent. It doesn’t carry the dramatic heft of Krisha, but TR provides several twists and turns while balancing a difficult central character. I’m not sure who would rate this as a comedy, unless awkwardness is what triggers your giggles (hah!), but if you get over this misleading set-up, you might just end up surprised and weirdly fascinated by what’s going on. Not that it’s an easy, relaxing watch, yet it proves rewarding by the end. So that’s me not telling you anything about what’s really unfolding in Thunder Road. Deal with it. 8/10

Parenthood part x+2

  • Leave No Trace (2018): From the visionary director of Winter’s Bone (2010), wherein Jennifer Lawrence had her breakthrough performance, comes another tale of surviving in the wilderness. A father-daughter couple (didn’t we leave on this note all those weeks back?) survive together in a wildlife park near Portland in a rugged woman’s take on Captain Fantastic (2016). But this is no Captain Fantastic – no lush fairytale of happy hippies. It’s the story of a troubled war veteran who cannot adapt to society any more and now faces his daughter’s longing for a community. Thomasin McKenzie’s piercing glare will stay with you long after the movie is over, in a narratively austere, yet emotionally rich adventure into anti-modern America. Unlike Captain Fantastic’s bohemian pandering, Leave No Trace is a testament both for and against modern society, a taut and uncompromising coming of age story like few others. Have I used all the right buzzwords? 9/10

Snacking

  • The Night Eats the World (2018): I so want to tell you next to nothing about this, but chances are you already know what the gist of it is. We’re going postapocalyptic in a quiet, slow-paced zombie flick. By far the most remarkable thing about TNEtW is that it stars three actors who have played in some memorable movies: Anders Danielsen Lie (Reprise, 2006), Golshifteh Farahani (About Elly, 2009) and Denis Lavant (Holy Motors, 2012). Beyond this, the thing takes a contemplative route about zombies and solitude, with its lack of urgency troubling me at times. You’ll come across some debatable narrative choices, but beyond it, TNEtW amounts to a slightly reheated, yet pleasant meal of rotting brains. 6/10

Movies of the Weeks #39 #40 (2018)

motw40

When the cinema screen wept

  • When Nietzsche Wept (2007): While reading Irving D. Yalom’s book, I have to admit, it grew on me. The more ponderous discussions between his doctor Breuer and professor Nietzsche have actual weight to them, true introspection. Some of that is retained in this terribly flimsy piece of film-making, crippled by bad screenwriting, poor editing and an unconvincing cast. Bar for Armand Assante, whose performance anchors all that is good about the movie, the remaining actors are somewhere between tolerable and appalling. That being said, I recommend a glance at the book and you can just skip the opening fifty to a hundred pages. 4/10

Father-daughter experience nr. 1

  • Hearts Beat Loud (2018): Do you want a High Fidelity with fewer neuroses and a father-daughter couple at its core? Then HBL is the movie for you. Within this fine little story about lost chances and recognizing what’s worth a bet in life and what isn’t, Nick Offerman and Kiersey Clemons make the movie work and matter. Single parent families have become a popular set-up in current day cinema and, most of the time, these movies capture the sentiment endearingly. Need I mention that this flick not a hetero-normative affair? Where HBL comes short is in its subplots and secondary characters, by not making the best out of its excellent character actors – Toni Collette, Blythe Danner, Ted Danson. 7/10

Bad couples

  • Permission (2018): Here’s another one carried mostly by its cast (Dan Stevens and Rebecca Hall), that just about survives with its unlikely premise – a couple decides to explore other sexual orifices before getting married, for…fear of missing out? Needless to say, things don’t go very well, and director/writer Brian Cano doesn’t quite manage to put it all together in an engaging manner. He does get the feeling right though, so expect an uncomfortable hour or so. I would argue that dividing our attention between two couples instead of focusing on one undermines what could have been an intimate, self-destructive experience to really stay with you for weeks, months, even years afterwards. Alas…6/10

When superhero movies fail

  • Venom (2018): The latest Tom Hardy super(anti)hero bonanza has been panned by critics for good reason. It might be easy on the eyes and go by quickly, but there’s not much there for the senses. You know something’s not right when your main takeaway after hours is that ‘it didn’t feel like two hours’. Neither does playing Candy Crush, which is not an endorsement. The sub-average plot isn’t saved by run-of-the-mill action sequences, the only redeeming aspect of the whole thing being some good banter between Hardy’s two-sided character. And you know what? It actually felt long, especially in the painstaking minutes before Venom first engulfs the screen. So no points for that, either! 4/10

Father-daughter experience nr. 2

  • Eighth Grade (2018): To say that Bo Burnham’s directorial debut has been showered with praise would almost be an understatement. Heart-felt, with a great lead in Elsie Fisher, the movie totally captures the sense of teenage angst it’s going for. Moreso, in spite of being steeped in American school culture, it goes beyond it and feels truly universal. Should I mention we’re going with another single parent family here? Once more, painted in the best way possible, as our father figure feels like an awkward, clueless mess at times, while really caring. I was left with the relief that I didn’t have a smartphone growing up and found my own spirals to be engulfed by. 8/10

 

Movies of the Week #38 (2018)

A suboptimal week, with hardly any movie really standing out. But the people demand a winner, so they shall have one!

MotW38

AKA The Pre-dater

  • The Predator (2018): For a franchise as iconic as this, Predator has been plagued by very average sequels. Although, to me, ‘the’ predator movie will aways be Predator 2, which I watched many times as a child from a VHS tape, dubbed in Romanian, the only ones with some critical acclaim are the original and the 2010-try, Predators. Funny enough, I didn’t enjoy Predators much, whereas The Predator actually proved quite a bit of fun. The plot, screenplay and some characters are quite atrocious, but the banter is great and borderline offensive. Which, I guess, is why it’s great. Going for a larger dose of comic relief worked for me. So if you can ignore some of the silliness – or just get on board with it, chances are you might also enjoy this. 6/10

When you need to go beyond watching dogs react to their owners ‘vanishing’

  • Alpha (2018): One of the bigger movies of this early autumn, Alpha is a slightly unusual mainstream affair, in that it’s silent a lot of the time and when it isn’t silent, the characters speak a fictional language. Unfortunately, it’s tired, predictable and slow, with fewer emotional hijackings than suspected – and this is a bad thing because I failed to really get into it and didn’t care much for the hut-dwelling characters fueled mostly by their survival instincts and an overly structured sense of familial belonging. Not my cup of tea. 5/10

…people said Brexit and Trump were impossible.

  • The First Purge (2018): Although I’ve seen all the four movies now, I can’t say I’ve ever been a fan. That being said, the Purge is not the worst franchise around. It’s one of the few that finds ways to stay pertinent. If you know what this thing is all about (a night a year when all laws are suspended and people can kill/steal/etc. without the legal repercussions), you don’t need a schematic to know where this one’s going. Heck, just reading this phrase should be enough. While there are plenty stereotypes going about, the essence of the movie is about the power political figureheads have in amplifying social rifts and creating self-fulfilling prophecies of doom to support their ‘platforms’. I want to believe people have a propensity for good, even at the worst of times, and that the strain we are being put under to undermine and despise one another is gnawing at the fabric of our existence. Well, I don’t really want to believe the latter part, but that’s what it feels like a lot of the time – a feeling that The First Purge does an excellent job of capturing. And to feed the meta-irony, I was looking at the suspicious recent reviews the movie has on IMDb, with people lambasting it with harsh one liners a la ‘worst film I’ve ever seen’. A lot of those reviews come from users who had never commented on anything else before, sometimes newly registered, other times (most bizarrely) with five-ten year old accounts, who have finally deemed to write their first IMDb contribution, i.e. said one-liner for this flick. Did the the jibe about the Russians really hurt that much? 7/10

At least it left me craving some pizza

  • Little Italy (2018): I’m all for unambitious romcoms that parade ethnic stereotypes and sell fortune-cookie level wisdoms, but Little Italy really does a job here! Thankfully, the old, tired cheese and the stale gags are made tolerable by a functional cast, with quite a few character actors and a decent leading couple – Emma Roberts and Hayden Christensen. Let me say it: he’s definitely gone to the dark side with this one (haha, sorry). Long gone are the days of Shattered Glass, Life as a House or even Factory Girl for the Star Wars star. Now any role in third rate movies goes. There were maybe a couple of lines that made me chuckle, and then I chuckled harder at some of the horrendous scenes laid out in the movie. Yet, somehow, it didn’t make me want to end my life or pick up a book. 4/10