Movies of the Weeks #19 #20 #21 (2017)

To be honest, this isn’t really about weeks #19 and #20. The only movies seen in that petty time frame were Alien Covenant (which, as a true fan, I even revisited last week) and a rewatch of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Then again, given that Eternal Sunshine is one of my favourites, I guess it does matter. Anyway, I managed to get back into some groove during the last few days, so there’s something to talk about.

Movie of the Weeks

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

eternal-sunshine-of-the-spotless-mind

Some day

  • Alien: Covenant (2017): People imagining this would be fundamentally different or better than Prometheus just because it’s got ‘Alien’ in the title need to wake up to reality. Thing is, there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with Covenant being about as inspired as the prequel it sequels. Sure, Prometheus wasn’t a masterpiece and that crew, like almost any space crew in a Hollywood blockbuster, seemed dilettantish; but it took the Alien universe in a new direction, albeit one that’s hard to dig deep into without appearing superficial – the ‘why are we here’ direction. Covenant doubles down on this, which is why I deem it slightly inferior to Prometheus. There just isn’t any elegant way to avoid being pretentious when tackling high-brow stuff in a B-movie frame. Moreover, it goes for a twist ending that it doesn’t even bother to mask properly and then tries to use for shock value, while also being uneven in tone at times. Beyond this however, I enjoyed Covenant, the visuals, the creatures, even some of the crew, and it amounts to a competent addition to the Alien-verse. 7/10

Some other day

  • Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004): God, is Eternal Sunshine a truly great movie or what? In Charlie Kaufman’s peak creative half-decade, when he wrote Being John Malkovich (1999), Adaptation (2003) and even the not-quite-as-great-but-still-decent Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2002), it felt impossible to pick a favourite between BJM, A and ESotSM. I guess it still does, because the three are movies are so different in style, thanks to the equally distinctive directors to have helmed them, that they stand on their own beautifully. What I love about Eternal Sunshine is its hopeless romanticism, the idea that falling out of love is not something you can engineer, as well as the equivalent thought that you would be willing to love someone even if you were certain it would fail. And, let’s be honest, that’s what we all do anyway. 9/10

Monday

  • The LEGO Batman Movie (2017): There was something so cool and breezy about the first LEGO movie that it was hard not to like. This spin-off works in the same spirit, but suffers for being more of the same and lightheartedly predictable. It’s basically a movie getting together most of the Batman do-gooders and evil-doers and then trying so hard to be ironic and self-deprecating, that it inevitably feels overdone. For whatever reason, I guess I took it all too seriously, probably because my bat-senses kicked in, but all-in-all I thought it was a run-of-the-mill affair. 6/10

Tuesday

  • Patriots Day (2016): If you’re into real-life re-enactments of modern day tragedies, Patriots Day is right up your alley. The movie about the Boston marathon bombings offers some perspective, by featuring both protagonists and villains, but it doesn’t dig very deep. Truth be told, if you’ve seen one Peter Berg – Mark Wahlberg movie, you’ve sort of seen them all; I personally preferred Deepwater Horzion (2016) and even Lone Survivor (2013) to this one, because I’m not all too big on the rather streamlined American cinematic dialogue about terror attacks, which inevitably revolves around inner strength in the face of absurd injustice and a dollop of patriotism. There’s nothing wrong with either, I have no idea how one could and/or should react to this kind of violence, but its filmic thematization is at best strong dramatically and superficial politically/socially/philosophically.  6/10

Thursday

  • Colossal (2017): This weird-ass movie by Nacho Vigalondo takes Anne Hathaway and places her in the skin of a thirty-ish woman forced into rethinking her party-going lifestyle. In doing so, she goes back home where she encounters her childhood friend, played by Jason Sudeikis. What unfolds between the two looks like the latter pining on the former, but then metamorphosizes into something completely different, when it turns out that Hathaway’s character has the ability to conjure a monster in Seoul if she walks across the local playground in the early morning. The twist of the movie is quite beautiful, even poetic, and I admire Vigalondo (of whom I had previously only seen Los cronocrímenes (2007)) for offering a deeply troubled negative character. Towards the end, Colossal flourishes into something of rich interpretative potentiality, even if it feels like it cuts some corners to make it happen. If you’re into quirky, well worth its time. 7/10

Friday

  • Mindhorn (2017): I’m quite big on spoofs and parodies, whether I understand them or not. So naturally a British production would attract my attention –  hey, I even liked Johnny English (2003)! Mindhorn presents a washed up actor, Richard Thorncroft, whose claim to fame came after starring as the character named Mindhorn in a successful TV series, eons ago. Back in present day, his services are required when a serial killer demands to speak to the brilliant detective character. There’s nothing inherently original or spectacular about the movie, just that its execution is excellent, which counts a lot when your subject matter is fairly rehashed. I’m certain there are some obscure references which I’ve missed, but even so, Mindhorn proved to be quite the enjoyable ride. 7/10

Sunday

  • Anvil! The Story of Anvil (2008): I’ve had Anvil on my to-watch list for longer than I can remember. Well, no longer than nine years, I suppose. The documentary about Canadian heavy metal band Anvil, which influenced the likes of Megadeth, Slayer, Anthrax and Metallica (or so Wikipedia claims, I have no clout in the heavy metal world), is quite the rollercoaster feel-good story to replace one of those True Detective episodes you’ve been putting off for a few months now. With their hey-day far behind them, the band still enjoy concerting, but it feels like the world has forgotten them. The movie is carried by Steve “Lips” Kudlow’s energy and boundless optimism, as well as his relationship with band co-founder and best friend Rob Reiner, who is his polar opposite. It’s quite the tale about persistence, finding what makes you happy, the intricacies of doing that when your happiness is contingent on the well-being of others, and friendship. Highly recommended. 8/10

 

 

Movies of the Week #18 (2017)

I actually can’t even merge anything from the last two weeks, as week #17 provided zero movie watching opportunities. Not sure when or if this has ever happened before, in the last few years. Nonetheless, I have prevailed from my apathy last week and enjoyed several, very different movies.

Movie of the Week:

Donnie Darko (2001) – Director’s Cut

donnie darko

Monday

  • Donnie Darko (2001): Darko was one of my favourite teenage films and I’m glad to report it’s still pretty awesome. For a while I was torn between watching the Director’s Cut or the Original Cut, with the former more generous on guidance, but also suffering some alterations to the soundtrack. I succumbed to it in the end, only to realize I was incapable of really telling the two apart any more. The angst ridden tale of Donnie Darko, a time-travel movie that doesn’t feel a lot like a time-travel movie, is one of the ultimate high-school experiences. A very young Jake Gyllenhaal stars alongside his sister, Maggie, as well as the likes of Jena Malone, Mary McDonnell, Patrick Swayze and Drew Barrymore. This glitzy cast does an amazing job in shaping the dark, bitter, yet soulful world that Darko resides in, aided by several great musical pieces, including the (in)famous Mad World. What stood out to me on this screening was how much of the movie is about parenthood and how difficult connecting with your children can be. I’m not sure why this never came across to me before; it’s not like I’ve procreated in the meantime or anything. 9/10

Tuesday

  • Tramps (2016)It sometimes feels like there’s a plethora of good indie movies out there which do not dazzle, but prove how to put an average story to film in an above average way. Tramps would fall in this category as it treads the line of rom-crime, in an unusual set-up: Danny has to deliver a briefcase pretending to be his brother; after picking up the ‘object’ from Ellie, he mistakenly hands it to the wrong receiver and the rest of the movie is about the two of them struggling to right the wrong. As their affection for one another grows, so do the background schemes which risk tearing them apart. It’s the kind of movie that lives or dies on the chemistry of its leads and, thankfully, Callum Turner and Grace van Patten work really well together in portraying two honest and authentic characters.  7/10

Saturday

  • Win It All (2017): This n-th collaboration between Joe Swanberg and Jake Johnson (after the modestly unusual Digging for Fire (2015) and the slightly more high profile Drinking Buddies (2013), both of which I’ve seen and found not completely devoid of merit) puts Eddie (Johnson), a small time gambler, in the position of holding onto a lump sum of money for an acquaintance who has to spend some time in prison. It made little sense to me, bestowing a gambler with such responsibility, but after I lodged this thought in the back of my mind, events unfolded more naturally – lose some money, try to get straight and earn it back, then get tempted/forced to reconsider your decision. The movie’s spirit is in the right place, which earns it points in my book and the rather whimsical conclusion made me chuckle. Alas, I’m not big on gambling stories, especially these down to earth iterations, so there were times I felt the action dragged, making me lose some interest. 6/10
  • Split (2016): Yeah, I know. What can I say, peer pressure and stubborn people, unwilling to listen to my sage advice. It didn’t get any better with a second viewing either. 5/10

Sunday

  • Der Bunker (2015): Maybe you guys remember I was riveted by The Baby (1973). Well, there I was, early for lunch on a rainy Sunday, and this German flick called Der Bunker was running on Cinemax, reminding me fondly of it. Story goes…erm, I missed the first ten minutes, but this student fellow was spending time with a weird family, trying to write some thesis, by the time I sat down. The mother/father couple had a child who was obviously grown up, but behaved as an eight year old and had apparently only known life in the seclusion of a home-schooling arrangement. Although his parents wished for him to ‘become president’ one day, the youngling was still struggling to learn his state capitals – a key piece of knowledge to any presidential aspirant, as is well known. The student proves successful in teaching young Klaus, so the parents want to keep him around some – particularly on the desire of Heinrich, a former demon (?) lover of the mother who now lives as a wound on her leg. If this outline hasn’t piqued your interest, well, nothing in life ever will. 6/10
  • Carrie Pilby (2016): To relax with something mainstream after the earlier alternative experience, I picked Pilby, which seemed vaguely interesting due to its rather pretentious plot: an asocial overachiever (“I started Harvard when I was 14”) tries to find some joy and purpose in her life, while frustrated by the relationship with her father. Although the plot is terribly formulaic, Bel Powley is an agreeable on-screen presence and, by some weird coincidence, once more plays a character to have had totally inappropriate relations while underage – which she had also done in the highly lauded The Diary of a Teenage Girl (2015), that I kind of enjoyed. Nathan Lane’s soft touch to his psychiatrist might not be particularly stand-out, yet I somehow felt drawn to him. Too bad that with very low ambitions, Pilby is quite the opposite of what its title character purports to be. 6/10