Movies of the Weeks #15 #16 (2017)

To appear less shameful in the eyes of the cinematic lord, I decided to merge the past two weeks of movie-going activities. My despondency rises to worrying levels though, as the taste for compulsive movie watching seems to have deserted me this spring, a decade after the Year of the Yushityu 2007 Mimetic-Resolution-Cartridge-View-Motherboard-Easy-To-Install-Upgrade For Infernatron/InterLace TP Systems For Home, Office Or Mobile (sic). Yes.

Movie of the Week-merger:

Get Out!

get out

Thursday (the week before)

  • Ghost in the Shell (2017): I’ve never really been the biggest fan of GitS, but I did a) appreciate the original anime and b) appreciate its influence on my favourite Game of All-Time (GOAT), Deus Ex (2001). Major, a cyber-enhanced super-soldier resulting from an otherwise life-ending accident, is caught in a web of deceit and forced to question her being and her purpose in the world. The human-in-the-machine concept is weaved poetically enough to stand out of the shadow of Blade Runner (1982) or, let’s say it, RoboCop (1987) thanks, in part, to a fascinating, overpowering visual construction of the future megatropolis. However, while the anime did take the time to mince words and ideas, its 2017 iteration feels shallow in comparison and emotionally sterile. It’s a bit of a shame, because the movie is pretty to look at, conjuring an audio-visual density that both overwhelms and enthralls. Alas, more is needed to be relevant and with cinematic staying-power. 6/10

Sunday (the week before)

  • Why Him (2016):  There was no obvious reason why I, or anyone else for that matter, should have watched Why Him, the James Franco/Bryan Cranston take on everyone’s favourite courting dynamic: fathers meeting their daughters’s suitors. However, it was Easter, the family was around, so why not a foul mouthed dive into this meet and greet? Turns out there are enough reasons why, reasons which outweigh the perplexed and awkward laughs your aunts and uncles might produce. Firstly, the set-up is run-of-the-mill: smart girl falls for seemingly idiotic guy who owns a tech empire. Secondly, the guy is just an unredeemable, contradictory character who seems to be a walking joke. Thirdly, in spite of a few laughs, you’ve mostly seen or heard them all. Fourthly, it doesn’t even pretend to strive towards some semblance of originality. And fifthly, James Franco is in it. Just kidding. Maybe. 4/10

Tuesday

  • Get Out (2017): The hype is real, folks. Jordan Peele’s debut directorial feature puts a twist on The Stepford Wives (2004), while also providing a far superior execution to the idea. I’ve always been fascinated with the concept behind Ira Levin’s book, although I disliked reading it, just as I disliked the 2004 movie. Something just didn’t click in the way the story unfolded and the last third of both book and movie felt derivative. Get Out manages the rhythm and timing much better, while also keeping a tight leash around its characters, thereby avoiding their becoming ridiculous. So when Chris goes to meet Rose’s parents, we’re up for a more nuanced and more unsettling Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967), which hits the right notes and plays as a great parable with sci-fi undertones. A lot of the talk will be about the role of implicit racism, structural racism, and rightfully so, but what makes Get Out special is the attention to detail and the sharp irony it slaps its hypocrites with. Also, there’s something just remarkably endearing and relatable about Daniel Kaluuya’s wry smile. 8/10

Saturday

  • A Street Cat Named Bob (2016): I was well aware Bob didn’t particularly suit my tastes. The (true) story of a heroin addict kicking the habit thanks, in part, to a stray cat which stumbles into his newly acquired social housing abode has all the warning signs of a movie that’s bound to fall short. It inevitably feels shallow and sugarcoated, although the overall execution isn’t bad. You just know that this won’t be Trainspotting-caliber heroin despair, or the kind of traumatic stuff from Heaven Knows What (2014). In itself this is no problem, there’s no rule stipulating all drug themed movies need to end in electroshock therapy, but a feel-good approach takes the risk of appearing only half-true, cherry-picking the relatable to drive its characters. If that’s something you don’t mind, then A Street Cat Named Bob might be for you, as it does a good enough job with what it’s got to tell the story of Bob and James. 6/10

Movies of the Week #14 (2017)

Not much to report.

split

Friday

  • Split (2016): Hyped as the first good Shyamalan movie in, I don’t know, a million years, Split seemed to me like just another disappointment. That’s if you can still call anything Shyamalan does disappointing, because it presumes a bar set high by previous efforts and/or expectations. In spite of a cool performance by James McAvoy – and, actually, some more good performances, by Anya Taylor-Joy and the elusive Betty Buckley; I didn’t take at all to Haley Lu Richardson though, whom I previously disliked in The Edge of Seventeen (2016) as well – Split starts off interestingly enough, then strays and becomes rather dull. The story is about a guy suffering from dissociative identity disorder who kidnaps three girls as he awaits the rise/awakening of his 24th persona, an all powerful beast. And, erm, I don’t know, that’s about it. There’s some enjoyable interplay between the personas, but I’m not sure what Shyamalan is trying to do by peddling this idea that every different identity can also alter the biological character of a being (i.e. one might be short-sighted, the other might have diabetes, etc.). Maybe it’s just there for the quirk of it and facilitating this supreme creature. It’s a shame, because the premise of broken people being stronger than those who are whole and unharmed has traction, but more on a figurative level, than a literal one. 5/10

Movies of the Week #13 (2017)

Although I’ve done presentably on the movie front this week, what I really need to dedicate this intro to is 13 Reasons Why (2017). The Netflix series caught my attention (I knew it was for me as soon as I read high-school drama) and I ploughed through it during the weekend – a proper binge, after many binge-less years. Based on a hugely popular YA novel I never heard about, it feels like a mix of Donnie Darko (2001) and Veronica Mars (2004), with more than one musical cue taken from the former. The gist of the plot: a seventeen year old girl commits suicide, leaving behind several cassette tapes explaining why and pointing fingers. While some suspension of disbelief is required, the solid cast, lead by a likable Dylan Minnette, builds some good drama on top of an otherwise atmospheric existential run through the old-school/new-age American high-school. Recommended.

Movie of the Week:

Fences (2016)

fences

Monday

  • Life (2017): On what turned out to be one of the most awesome days of my decade, I managed to squeeze in a trip to the cinema for some Alien rip-off. Sorry, homage. Although starring quite the actors (Jake Gyllenhaal, Ryan Reynolds, Rebecca Ferguson), the sci-fi horror turned out to be quite the disappointment. The movie looks good and feels unnerving, which is great, but its enjoyment hinges, as is often the case with the genre, on accepting some terrifying ineptitudes in the story. Someone put it really well in a comments section around the interwebz: “The story of one of the smartest living organisms in the universe, and the six dumbest human beings to ever enter space.” God, are those characters irritatingly daft. If you’re wondering what about, let’s just say they are sent on the ISS to recover and analyze a Mars soil sample, which supposedly includes a biological thingy. Well, after the thingy is sort of brought to life, the researcher in charge of, I don’t know, understanding it? becomes disassociated with mankind and bonds like a brother with his new buddy. When excrement hits the fan, nobody is surprised – except for those on board the ISS, of course. Anyway, it’s such a shame, as the movie actually manages to be creepy as hell, but all is spoiled by an underused Gyllenhaal and all this other stuff that pissed me off. So, with this in mind, imagine how awesome the day must have been for me to have still rated it so highly. 5/10

Thursday

  • Fences (2016): Directed and starring Denzel Washington and based on the eponymous August Wilson play, Fences offered Viola Davis a platform for her first Academy Award. The story of a disgruntled, middle-aged man in the 50s and 60s laboriously paints a bleak picture of its protagonist: a hard-ass, cynical, arguably self-obsessed father who, in spite of hating his own paternal figure, only manages to emulate it. Verve is probably the best word to describe what most of the dialogue brings with it, managing to bridge a rather lengthy run-time of over two hours. Washington effectively builds up to a finale that is both depressing and somewhat hopeful, which nonetheless made me cry my eyes out for a bit – before I manned up real quickly. It’s just an emotional film, that might take a while to grow on you, but offering a decent payout in the end.  8/10

Friday

  • Prevenge (2016): Alice Lowe took on all responsibilities as she starred, wrote and directed Prevenge. I was familiar with Sightseers (2012)one of her previous films in which she merely had the lead and co-wrote the script, and knew to expect some dark twists in this one. Unsurprising, given the synopsis: Widow Ruth is seven months pregnant when, believing herself to be guided by her unborn baby, she embarks on a homicidal rampage, dispatching anyone who stands in her way. To be fair, it isn’t just anyone, there is some pattern to the homicidal rampage, which fleshes itself out along the way. What I really took away from the movie was the ironic anti-parenting jabs, the dread of what is to come, of ones own imperfections in facing such a life-changing abomination – sorry, baby. The sense that you are on your own grows into you, as friends and strangers alike fall into certain behavioral patterns in dealing with the situation. So yeah, pretty fun. 7/10