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