Movies of the Week #23 #24 (2019)

Horror turns classical mush-fest

The Perfection (2018): While the movie boasts some cool visuals with strong musical backdrops, it’s farther off from perfection than it probably desires. (Some spoilers ahead) After a promising and thoroughly sexy set-up, it swerves into explanatory flashback territory (a big no-no) before going into full revenge porn mode. Unimaginative twists and a cultish, cliched antagonistic force did little to redeem the latter part of the thing, which is held up by the aforementioned cinematography. Such a shame. 5/10

Hold my phone

Den skyldige (2018): The much acclaimed Danish movie is a strong and mostly successful take on the Phone Booth (2002) model, but even more minimalistic. It succeeds wonderfully in creating tension and offering good depth to its protagonist, a police officer on alarm duty who happens upon a kidnapping. The guy oversteps his responsibilities in a (sometimes) frustratingly reckless manner, with consequences both expected and unexpected. It all tied up too nicely by the end, but conjuring this kind of tension from a story that unfolds within two rooms is an impressive feat. 7/10

AKA school and teachers

Stockholm (2018): A good trailer got me excited about Stockholm, an interpretive re-imagining of the bank heist that lead to the unearthing of the so-called Stockholm syndrome. Unfortunately, Robert Budreau’s story isn’t as explosive as I was led to believe, as it fails to really work the ‘kidnapped-but-thoroughly-charmed’ angle, with characters that puzzlingly lack charisma. Although a mere 92 minutes, it felt long and tired, rarely offering anything remotely memorable. 5/10

” Announcin’ your plans is a good way to hear god laugh.

Deadwood (2019): After more than a decade’s worth of delays, the Deadwood movie has finally seen the light of day. In a rather masterful composition, show creator David Milch manages to really synthesize what the show stood for, to refresh the characters we’ve always known and to wriggle everything around a story that proves both familiar and surprising. Some things change, most things don’t – that seems to be the motto to go by here. Indeed, I felt terribly old, thinking back on the Deadwood days of 2006. Since then, technology has rampantly changed the way in which we lead our lives, something that the movie touches upon heavily and poetically; the old Shakespearian wit of the Wild West is stronger than ever in the mouths of Al, Bullock and co. That being said, this is definitely an experience for the already initiated, as it lacks the run-time to properly expand upon its characters, their motivations and, particularly, their relationships. 8/10

Not great, but not terrible (jk, jk!)

Chernobyl (2019): Cheating a bit here to include HBO’s mini-series on my list. Ridiculously popular by now, the true story of the 1986 explosion at the Chernobyl reactor nr. 4 is a riveting piece of film-making, that could have done with more nuance in key points. The first episode is pure poetry to me, a menacing tale of horror that crawls under your skin without any excesses or cheap stunts. The immensity of the situation, the stunted flow of information, the near-philosophical degree of indoctrination make for a great opening salvo. It remains interesting throughout the series, as we unfold the human drama, the systemic failures, the political weightlifting. Alas, the degree of autonomy and opinionhood it bestows on some of its characters is out of place and off-putting, which ended up bothering me. That being said, it’s great to finally reveal part of the tales and myths surrounding Chernobyl and for it to be done so memorably is just a gift. 8/10

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Movies of the Week #21 #22 (2019)

American Animals (2018): Based on a true story, AA approaches its heist story in an unusual manner – not only by recreating it, but also offering a documentary perspective from its protagonists. I wasn’t completely taken by it, because a clean docu or a clean interpretive movie would have felt tighter and produced a more immersive experience. What stuck with me is how well it recreated the panic and amateurism of the attempt, i.e. what a heist would probably look like if a fellow off the street had his go. It’s a shame that it didn’t fully stick with its guns. 6/10

Booksmart (2019): Olivia Wilde’s highly acclaimed debut feature has been called ‘the Breakfast Club of a new generation’. I get the parallel, because the movie really doubles down on fighting stereotypes and providing redeeming traits to most of its characters. While certain moments felt a tad contrived, the dynamic energy between leads Kaytlin Dever and Beanie Feldstein makes for a whole lot of fun to watch, in a coming-of-age tale that feels both familiar and new. Like most good things in life. 8/10

The Wife (2018): In spite of its less than exciting story, Jonathan Pryce and, particularly, Glenn Close make a real meal out of this one. Pryce plays a writer who stands to win the Nobel Prize, whereas Close is, you guessed it, the wife – and there’s more to her than meets the eye, too. The story tries to strike a balance between duty, love and justice, which it often does, sometimes pedantically so. Close’s magical touch ensures said balance is struck, in a wonderful performance well worth its praise. 7/10

Miami Blues (1990): Stepping into the 90s is always an adventure, but not many mainstream movies have the level of quirkiness to their characters that Miami Blues does. Starring Alec Baldwin, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Fred Ward, the story goes about its evil-doing protagonist with a lot of flair, as the man tries to get a (crummy) foothold into post-prison life. It sometimes feels like the movie isn’t trying really hard to make sense and be serious, yet everything falls into place by the end, with plenty odd moments just stuck in your mind. Nothing too ambitious, but different enough to stand out. 7/10

Always be My Maybe (2019): Netflix romcoms have become a dime a dozen and they all share from the essence of what makes romcoms work, but never really manage to go beyond the ‘somewhat enjoyable’. AbMM is no exception, with a likable leading duo, childhood friends/lovers who reunite after a decade long break, with their lives in vastly different places. Yet, nothing seems to really matter, it’s all just a question of when specific things happen. Sure, there’s enough personality to fill your chuckles, with an excellent celebrity guest-scene making for a fun distraction. 6/10

Movies of the Week #20 (2019)

The definition of a classic

Casablanca (1942): I fell in love with you watching Casablanca/ Back row of the drive-in show in the flickering light/ Popcorn and cokes beneath the stars/ Became champagne and caviar/ Making love on a long hot summer’s night/ I thought you fell in love with me watching Casablanca/ Holding hands ‘neath the paddle fans/ In Rick’s candle lit cafe/ Hiding in the shadows from the spies/ Moroccan moonlight in your eyes/ Making magic at the movies in my old Chevrolet (Bertie Higgins/Jessica Jay, Casablanca).

What else is there left to say? 9/10

Goes under the skin, then slips right out

XX (2017): A horror anthology with the distinction of being directed solely by women, XX feels all over the place – either too literal or too metaphorical, too tame or too vicious, too ironic or too mundane. All of the stories have something about them, something left dormant through these rather disappointing explorations. Unconvincing acting performances don’t help, with Karyn Kusama’s tale (who also directed The Invitation) being the sole stand-out of the bunch. 5/10

Ageless action heroes have become the norm

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (2019): Wick is back! Narratively as unambitious as ever, the movie provides more of its trademark action sequences, that you’ll either enjoy or completely despise. Director Chad Stahelski and lead Keanu Reeves know they have a good thing going, with narrative minimalism and action maximalism dictating the rhythm of their world. The addition of Asia Kate Dillon is a very welcome move, whereas Mark Dascascos’ “villain” didn’t feel quite right, but provided effective fight scenes. One would think this trilogy should have run its course by now, but it seemingly has not. 7/10

Talking of ageless…

The Old Man & The Gun (2018): Robert Redford’s final movie fits the man like a glove, as he portrays the story of Forrest Tucker, a gentleman bank-robber and top-notch jail-breaker. His style draws admiration from press, public and law enforcement, with detective Hunt, played by Casey Affleck, particularly impressed. David Lowery of A Ghost Story (2017) fame creates attractive visuals to frame this small tale that tries to make the distinction between making a living and living. I didn’t find it convincing in this regard, with the movie feeling mostly like a soft-spoken vehicle for Redford. 7/10

The heavy pen of video-game scriptwriters

Tomb Raider (2018): In the spirit of all video-game adaptations, TR is an inconsequential movie, that sometimes entertains, but mostly feels like a silly rehash of better films. It’s a shame, really, because Alicia Vikander makes for a decent Lara Croft, and there are a couple of scenes that look really cool. There are a lot of nods towards the more recent TR game trilogy, which I’ve enjoyed myself, but it proves a real challenge to make the plot work and the characters engaging. Hard to say when a good video-game adaptation will finally come our way. 5/10

Movies of the Week #19 (2019)

Casablanca II

Transit (2018): Christian Petzold is shaping to be one of my favourite directors at the pace he’s going. The manner in which he tiers characters, geography and historical context is mesmerizing, making up for the more ambiguous moments in his film-making. Transit is particularly bizarre and unlikely at times, with its characters intermittently gliding and swerving in the way they act, which would make a literal interpretation of their relationships fruitless. Seemingly set during Nazi occupation of France, Petzold chooses to abandon any attempt of strict historical recreation, creating a disturbing sense of modern day conflagrations. The movie’s characters struggle to find transit to America, while the movie plays around with concepts of identity and romance at will, bordering on the absurd. It’s all somehow contagious, the questions, the despair, the passion, even if Transit‘s overt coherence might put some people off it. 9/10

Punch, snort, punch

A Prayer Before Dawn (2017): One of those movies that have been waiting on my watch-list ever since their release, this brutal story of an “English boxer incarcerated in one of Thailand’s most notorious prisons” (IMDb) feels relentless. Not unlike the below-reviewed Brawl, it’s rough and tough, but more sparing with its excesses and more generous with its humanity – in a place so devoid of it. For better or worse, the movie doesn’t dwell on the larger dramas of Billy Moore’s life, one so rife with tragedy and poor decisions that it would need another format for it. Alas, this also streamlines and diminishes the character somewhat. That being said, Prayer is the better prison movie of the week. 8/10

Smile, kill, smile

Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile (2019): They all come in twos or threes – after watching parts of the Jeffrey Dahmer story in My Friend Dahmer, it was serial-killer Ted Bundy’s turn to get the full-movie treatment. Unfortunately, there are a lot of times when EWSEaV doesn’t quite make sense, in an off-putting way. While Zac Efron’s performance, widely praised, is indeed worth the run-time, the man alone can’t keep the movie together, as it fails to get the menace behind its charm across. 6/10

Sing, kill, sing

Anna and the Apocalypse (2017): Who doesn’t want to watch a zombie musical? Shame on you! Every zombie movie deserves to be seen. Well, AatA has its moments and takes the Walking Dead/Game of Thrones approach to key character survival odds, which is fun. For a while. Its less than inspired musical moments don’t do enough to feel like more than a cheeky twist to the genre, which is why the thing lost me towards its finale. Props for trying to do something different. 6/10

Grit, grit, grit

Brawl in Cell Block 99 (2017): There’s a lot of grit to be had in Craig Zahler’s flick, as the director doubles down with the occasional moments of ultra-violence to rouse the viewer. What really makes the film stand out is Vince Vaughn’s assured performance, who anchors some of the more extravagant characters around him. This bestows the familiar tale of an incarcerated drug handler fighting to save his family with depth and is particularly well served by the uncompromising downward spiral Zahler wishes us to embark upon. 7/10

Movies of the Weeks #17 #18 (2019)

*Insert Blood Pun Here*

The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley (2019): Coming directly after finishing John Carreyrou’s book on the subject, I had high expectations of HBO’s Inventor. While it’s an informative piece of film-making, it has three major issues: a) it doesn’t dig deep enough in the juicy subject matter b) it justifies away too much of Elizabeth Holmes’s shortcomings and c) it treats the subject matter with too much levity. Hopefully the upcoming feature film will do a better job. 6/10

LoveBeGone

Someone Great (2019): There’s quite a bit of flair behind Someone Great, but not quite enough pazazz to make it memorable in any way. Its likable lead trio (Gina Rodriguez, Brittany Snow and DeWanda Wise) goes some way towards ensuring the movie is watchable, in this renewed old tale of heart overcoming heartbreak, of relationships moving and changing from one day to the next. Alas, it doesn’t go beyond that. 6/10

Bonnie and Clyde Rehash

The Highwaymen (2019): The 1930s manhunt equivalent of Someone Great, this tale of how Bonny and Clyde were tracked down by a pair of aging rangers provides little beyond its central duo – Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson. In spite of its 2hrs+ runtime, there’s only a fatigued story to hang onto, with no proper secondary characters and dramas propping up the protagonists. So, yes, not quite a movie to remember either. 6/10

PG 13 Wrestling – Oh, Wait

Fighting With My Family (2019): I had some hopes from FWMF, not so much because wrestling is a thing (although it arguably is), but because it was Stephen Merchant penning and helming it – there are few other comedian/actors out there who are more enjoyable to me. Sadly, the movie reflects little of Merchant’s wit, playing out as a tame, wannabe inspirational story of believing and defying the odds. Not quite sure while the whole thing didn’t grow on me, because people seemed to have liked it, but as it didn’t, it just felt distinctly middle of the road. A pattern for the week. 6/10

Jigsaw Coming Together

Avengers: Endgame (2019): I’ve never been enthralled by the Avengers (or almost any other Marvel movie), because Marvel, to me, can only do levity really good, but it fails at proper drama. Sure, Endgame is everything it could be, an achievement of mammoth proportions given its narrative breadth and the amount of characters it had to service. Which is why it stands out in the Marvel universe and I give it credit for that – and for being an entertaining movie. However, it’s so surgically put together that it cannot but fail in being more than the sum of its parts. I might also not agree with its utilitarian approach, but it does weave the stories together well and that is the standard by which I’ll judge it. Won’t deny it, I got somewhat emotional towards the end – the way you do when something that’s been a constant in your life, good or bad, finds closure. 8/10

Movies of the Week #16 (2019)

When Dealing Lands You in Prison

25th Hour (2002): I am always fearful of re-examining the movies I loved while growing up. This Spike Lee ‘joint’ bears the usual excesses of the director, as he portrays the last day of freedom for Monty Brogan (Ed Norton). It’s out of these excesses that the movie grows, submerging the affair in an intensely colourful drama about family and friends. Funnily enough, I thought Norton was the lesser of his co-stars, with Berry Pepper, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Rosario Dawson and Bryan Cox outshining his heavily restrained performance. The poetic ending got to me a lot, with its introspective foray into the choices one makes in life, which is part of the reason why I’ve always had a special place in my heart for 25th Hour. Still do. 9/10

P.S. Based on the novel and adapted to the screen by David Benioff (of Game of Thrones fame), can you believe that?

When Dealing Lands You in Rehab

Ben is Back (2018): A heavy drama about a son who returns home for the holidays during a stint in drug rehab, Ben is Back is well acted, well executed, but just too burdensome to be really worthwhile. Starring Julia Roberts and Lucas Hedges (and directed by, hey!, Peter Hedges), what the movie does well is to portray this unraveling of the picture-perfect-son as seen through the eyes of his mother. What it does less well is engage the viewer as it drifts through the second and third acts. 6/10

When Just Dealing in Front of a VHS Store

Clerks (1994): Famous and infamous, Clerks feels like a movie that would have no place in the 21st century. It’s a male-centricity is mostly amusing, without turning into blatant chauvinism, and the manner in which Kevin Smith treads this thin line is presumably why the movie has survived for so long. Taking the time to look at the lives of a couple of clerks, it’s an uneven first feature, with some really funny bits and quips, as well as some tedious, or even cringey attempts at humour – or, even worse, relevance. That being said, I enjoyed it. 7/10

When Dealing in Emotional Baggage

The Perfect Date (2019): The Netflix movie-making machine churns on and on, with TPD among its latest productions. In the spirit of its previous teen movies (To All The Boys I Loved Before, Sierra Burgess is a Loser, etc.), TPD creates a scenario in which a teenage boy acts as a stand-in for girls who need a date, need advice or need to horrify their parents, in order to earn the money he needs to study at Yale. If you take it seriously, you risk causing a dangerous, even fatal brain swelling. Instead, try to enjoy the chemistry between Noah Centino and Laura Marano and you might just indulge in the silliness of this rom-com. 6/10

When Just Dealing With It All

Catastrophe (2015-2019): I’m making an exception here and jotting some lines about TV material, as one of my favourite shows came to an end earlier this year. Few TV series do a better job than Catastrophe in collapsing the craziness of relationship life into a half-an-hour, six-episode-a-season format. Actually, I don’t know of any. Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan created and starred in the show, alongside an excellent supporting cast, which adds all the missing flavours to a “catastrophic” leading couple. In fairness, the title is a bit of a misnomer, as Rob and Sharon’s relationship is not that different to what you would expect most relationships to be like – and that’s part of the fun of it. Their wit and snarkiness, their aspirations and disappointments, their unforgiving bluntness, it all makes for a picture-imperfect image of the clusterf**k most relationships are. Bottom line being: it’s all a matter of choices. 9/10

Movies of the Week #14 #15 (2019)

The Kitsch, the Horror

Aquaman (2018): Rarely have I had the chance to dislike a superhero movie as much as I disliked Aquaman. The kitschy costumes, the numerous braindead characters, their undiscerning sobriety, the ridiculous lesser villain, the pathetic main villain, the tired fight scenes, the trigger-happy editing, the run-time, almost everything about the movie irked me. Jason Momoa was the only slight positive in the whole thing, but not even he managed to make the affair tolerable. Big boos from me. 4/10

Murder, He Wrote

Reversal of Fortune (1990): A true-to-life “making a murderer” before murderers were made, starring Glenn Close, Ron Silver and Jeremy Irons. It’s the story of Claus von Bulow, accused of attempting to kill his wife – who lies in a deep coma as the movie begins. Mr. von Bulow is not a likable man, which makes for an exciting story and the perfect role for Irons, who ended up winning the Academy Award for best Actor. It is, indeed, his performance that makes the most out of this movie, an otherwise well executed drama with a good tempo. 8/10

Love and War

Frantz (2016): For Francois Ozon, Frantz is a tame movie – tame in the best ways possible: a quiet and soulful reflection on life and death, on national prejudice and the willingness to believe the unlikely, as long as it creates coherence in our lives. In post WW1 Germany, a Frenchman appears, mourning a fallen soldier, as he tries to contact the man’s family. The movie twists and turns in various introspective ways, thanks to a couple of fleshed out characters and Ozon’s deft touch at creating emotion. A good time, most definitely. 8/10

The Portrait of Oscar Wilde

The Happy Prince (2018): If you’re up for a more depressing drama, do check out Rupert Everett’s lovechild, this retelling of Oscar Wilde’s tragic demise. The events of the movie occur mostly after his two years in prison, as he had been sentenced for sodomy, gross indecency – and being the pompous fool that he was. “Tragic” is, indeed, a word that’s justly used in this case, with Wilde slumming it penniless around Paris, as a couple of his friends try to give him a lifeline, which e refuses to embrace. The movie’s bleakness is also its weak point, as Everett fails to find a balance, relying solely on the larger-than-life persona of Oscar Wilde. It’s a good bet, but not at the best of odds. 7/10

Cheese Louise!

Green Book (2018): It’s amazing how a Hallmark level story managed to propel a banal feel-good movie into the position of a Best Picture winner – not to mention a Best Original Screenplay winner! It’s the performances of Ali and Mortensen that elevate Green Book out of the cushy, boring place that its story corners it into. The movie is such a predictable, melodramatic tale of two characters that feel fantastically artificial for the fact that the whole thing comes out of a true story, that its success baffles me. Alas, it’s not the first, nor with it be the last time that the Oscars make no sense to me.6/10

Movies of the Week #13 (2019)

Caught Offside?

  • Mario (2018): There are few places where homosexuality goes under the radar more than in professional football. The reasons for that are easily identifiable and Mario does the work to tick most of them. It’s a movie that portrays the football part surprisingly well, setting the story with a real-life backdrop – even if the actors barely look like pro players. Their chemistry works, which is why Mario churns out a tender story of love within the familiar frame of almost-cliched obstacles. I would argue it does the job well, making for a respectable flick, worth its time. 7/10

Nerd Alert

  • Prospect (2018): Indie sci-fis have become quite the spectacles nowadays. After last year’s Annihilation, a very high-brow approach, comes a movie with a similar feel but a lower-brow, if I may say so. Its strengths lie both in the visuals it creates, as well as its main characters – the silver tongued Ezra (Pedro Pascal) and the determined Cee (Sophie Thatcher). In between Pascal’s cheekiness and Thatcher’s reticence blossoms a strong bond, which carries the movie up until the end, when it begins to feel a bit tired – the movie, that is. Ultimately, a thoroughly enjoyable affair. 7/10

Music + Natalie Portman = Love

  • Vox Lux (2018): A big mashup of themes and tones, Vox Lux almost succumbs to its own weight. Thankfully, a late bravado performance from Natalie Portman rekindles the movie’s fading pulse, in this portrayal of school-shooting-victim-turned-child-pop-star-turned-a-wreck-of-an-adult-pop-star. Parts of the story and its characters are stereotypical, yet director/writer Corbet still manages to put in the extra something that elevates the experience beyond its tonal disharmony. 7/10

It Won’t Jump Scare You

  • Us (2019): Jordan Peele’s follow up to Get Out is every bit as unnerving and entertaining. Starring the likes of Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke and Elizabeth Moss, it takes a fairly abstract literal premise (everyone’s shadow is out for revenge) and turns it into a coherent social commentary about the structural effects caused by the access (and lack thereof) to fundamental social amenities. The powerful mirroring game works on several levels, which is what makes Us not only smart, but fun as well, in spite of the odd leaps of faith it asks of the viewer. 8/10

The Slow Burn of Your Dream Job

  • Personal Shopper (2016): It’s fun to see both former Twilight stars, Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson, take on some really exciting art-house productions. After her previous team-up with Olivier Assayas, Clouds of Sils Maria (2014), was well received – and rightfully so – Stewart has doubled down with a role that’s both difficult and engaging in equal measure. Her performance is at the core of why Personal Shopper turns out to be a good movie, as Stewart overcomes some of the jarring shifts in tone that Assayas goes for. Definitely not everyone’s cup of tea, but a distinctive take on solitude and grief. 7/10

Movies of the Weeks #11 #12 (2019)

True Love

  • Tangerine (2015): Hard to believe I’ve note written anything on this one, although I’ve seen it several times since its release. It’s unfortunate that it follows Tangerines (2013), while not quite predating the fruit either, which makes for a difficult find on Google. But Sean Baker’s masterpiece (yeah, I said it!) is well worth the find. The synopsis really says everything you need to know about the plot, while not giving anything away at all: “A hooker tears through Tinseltown on Christmas Eve searching for the pimp who broke her heart.” It’s a tremendous ride, full of highs and lows, great tempo, fresh characters, big laughs, small chuckles and, indeed, a lot of heart. A proper fairytale. 9/10

Deceit

  • Contratiempo (2016): For whatever reason, I thought this would be a good movie. Probably that ridiculous IMDb rating. In fact, it’s a moderately enjoyable, yet pretentiously silly drama about a stupid crime, inane characters and twists that are equally uninspired and unlikely. Wow, this movie really pissed me off, although I reckon I got more irritated while thinking about not, not while watching it. I might be in the minority here, but if you do want some similar twists executed way better, just watch the first Saw. Well…if you like a bit of extra-violence and gore with your twists. 5/10

There Was a Time

  • Stan & Ollie (2018): Behind its time, as the lack of awards glitter and box office appeal shows, the tale of Laurel and Hardy still works well, thanks to its strong co-leads: Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly. I recall watching my fair share of the comedic duo on TV when I was younger, but it seems their brand of physical humor has aged a lot in the last decades. The movie rarely deals with this disconnect, which is why it is limited to working well as a biopic and not much else. The relationship between Laurel and Hardy is endearing and, in this regard, director Jon Bird does them justice. Shame he doesn’t go beyond. 7/10

Once, twice, once again.

  • Happy Death Day 2U (2019): I might not have liked the original much, but the genre appeals to me, so watching the sequel was inevitable. HDD2 mixes things up in occasionally fun ways, while straying somewhat from the rinse and repeat format of the original, which makes for a better movie – for a while. The third act, with a tiring amount of twists and turns, left me with the same sense of disappointment as the original, which is why HDD2 doesn’t quite get my recommendation either. 5/10

The Verse Speaks to Us

  • Captain Marvel (2019): Skeptical, as always, when heading into a superhero adaptation, particularly a new one, I was pleasantly surprised by what Captain Marvel had to offer. With a strong leading duo (Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson), good side characters and antagonists, as well as some memorable moments and jokes, CM pulls off the unlikely and makes for a fun and refreshing venture into the Marvelverse. It’s not without flaws, particularly pacing-wise, and doesn’t aim particularly high with its story, but you just want to overlook these shortcomings. 7/10

Movies of the Week #10 (2019)

When ComRom Becomes RomCom

  • Isn’t It Romantic (2019): In this meta-romcom, Natalie’s life is quite average, when a bump on the head suddenly turns it into, you guessed it, a romcom! So imagine all the tropes being milked shamelessly in what is ultimately a mildly amusing affair, thanks to the talented cast and the occasional sample of wit. It doesn’t go far enough though to subvert the genre or be truly incisive, which is why IIR only goes beyond a passing grade. 6/10

Das Russian Boot

  • Kursk (2018): I somehow remember the news storm around the Kursk disaster rather well. I’m not sure why it struck me so at the time, when I was in my early teens, hearing about this nuclear sub and the age-old Russian reflexes in placing life second to intrigue and politics. A freshly minted Putin didn’t bother returning from holiday, while the submarine lay on the floor of the Barents Sea, seemingly so close, yet out of reach. The movie does little justice to the story, trying to stitch together a maudlin drama, with the odd interlude of one-dimensional politicking. Factually off in order to sustain a familiar narrative arc, the Kursk works while on the submarine, but is a total sinker outside of it. 5/10

Spider-pig, Spider-pig…

  • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018): Finally, a superhero movie winning an Oscar for something other than technical excellence! With an unexpected change of pace, the newest Spider-Man is surprisingly fun. In this take, a rift in the space-time continuum (or something) allows various Spider-Man characters to enter the same universe, where they have to both stop a villain from destroying the world (shocker), as well as induct a new Spider-Man to the job. Balanced just right, the movie shines through its creative visuals, which compensate for the blander moments of storytelling. Do watch, if you have even the slightest appreciation of the genre. 8/10

When Chocolate Labs Aren’t Enough For You

  • Pick of the Litter (2018): If you’re looking for a thoroughly endearing documentary with good odds for making you cry, then give PotL a try. It follows five pups which are being trained to become Guide Dogs for the Blind, an affair that’s harsher than you might expect. While not always compelling, the whole thing is a successful foray into a story I would never have come across otherwise. 7/10

Romeo, Juliet and All the Rest

  • If Beale Street Could Talk (2018): Odds are, you’ve seen this story many times, centering around the prejudice against African Americans in the modern United States. Beale Street tells it in a different light, an intimately romantic one of a middle class family forced to resort to all reasonable means available to it, in order to save the to-be-groom of their daughter from prison for a crime he did not commit. Director Barry Jenkins (of Moonlight fame) finds the sweet spot once more, in a tale of suffering and hopelessness, managing, somehow, to go beyond it all and find the human thread of hope. While the narrative isn’t without fault, the cinematic experience is pretty special, enough to warrant a strong recommendation, especially for those capable of coping with slow burners. 8/10