Movies of the Week #36 (2017)

As this week will most likely have a negligible amount of film in it, I dare doing another split. I’ve kept traveling, so that’s my excuse, but there’s still been time for a couple of notches on the old cinematic belt.

Movie of the Week

The Big Sick (2017)

bigsick

It was a Monday

  • An (2015): On the lookout for my foodie movie of the month – not that I’d seen any such movie for a while now – I dug deep into Asian culture, just to find a fluffy piece of mainstream storytelling, with a twist. An, or Sweet Bean, tells the tale of a down-on-life kind of pancake vendor, Sentaro, upon whom an old lady stumbles, offering her skills to produce ‘home made’ sweet bean paste, as opposed to the generic, soulless stuff Sentaro used for his penekeku. The soft spoken, mushy film’s twist is that the nice old lady was a cured leper, which used to be a serious thing in Japan, leprosy, with an equally serious social stigma attached to it. Sure thing, you can watch this at your leisure and enjoy it, even if it doesn’t dig deep into anything at all – not even the food. 7/10

It was not a Monday

  • American Made (2017): This one flew under my radar, i.e. as a big fan of Tom Cruise running, which is surprising given that, overall, it doesn’t suck. It doesn’t do much either, but enjoys itself in painting a messy picture of drugs, politics, diplomacy, war and absurd personal risk. At its best, it proves it can be bitingly ironic, in the style of Buffalo Soldiers (2001), maybe Lord of War (2005)At its not quite best, well, it just about doesn’t seem derivative, but can be easily ignored. For fans of Narcos, I’d guess this to be like a light-hearted thematic spin-off. 7/10

It was a Tuesday

  • Everybody Loves Somebody (2017): In spite of its horrendous title, ELS (not even the symphony) takes a good swipe at the romcom genre and finds itself standing at the end. Starring Karla Souza and some other people, it’s one of those complex dichotomous analyses of the human psyche, wherein one female specimen picks out a random male specimen to fill in for a boyfriend at her parents’ wedding, then half an hour later said female specimen finds herself swaying between new love for random male specimen or old love for ex-male specimen who has proven unreliable. That was a long ass phrase, my English teacher would scold me. Aaaaanyway, in spite of my snide remarks, it’s an age-old recipe that still produces some results if all the pieces are in place and, in this case, they happen to be. 7/10

It was not a Tuesday

  • The Big Sick (2017): One of the most praised movies of the summer, Kumail Nanjiani’s larger than life love story is wholesome, dedicated experience of little things that just about end up making the difference. It definitely brought to mind the more Indian version of this story, shot as a documentary, by Ravi Patel and his sister, Meet the Patels (2014), given that there are a few cultural similarities and definitely lookalike hurdles to be overcome within the United States. Where TBS scores awesome points is in its tactful and emotional portrayal of grief, as Kumail’s on screen persona gets to bond with the parents of his would-be-but-she’s-not-Pakistan girlfriend who is hit by a severe lung infection. Too high expectations risk leading you down the ‘is this it?’ path, because TBS is not posing as a never been seen story. Again, as I often like saying, it works really well because it comes together excellently, in spite of a low-caliber ending. 8/10

It was a Friday

  • The Quiet American (2002): In what is arguably Phillip Noyce’s best picture, Michael Caine and Brendan Fraser, the old reporter and the young doctor, find themselves sharing a love for the same woman in pre-war Vietnam. The spirit of films like The Painted Veil is present in this lush (urban) picture about the tacit American involvement in Vietnam, in days of ‘peaceful’ conflict, while the French were still “civilizing” the area. TQA is as taut and tense as any other Vietnam thriller, thanks also to the source material by Graham Greene, who also wrote the likes of The Third Man (1949) and The Fallen Idol (1948).  8/10

Hey, where did the rest of the week go?

  • It (2017): The much admired remake (re-imagining, how will you) of Stephen King’s sewer-clown terror proves to be rightfully praised, as it manages to stand out and show considerable restraint in using its main protagonist to great effect. However, there isn’t a lot of depth to the thing, as the movie feels a lot like a slightly inferior Stand by Me (1986) with a less interesting cast and featuring a scary clown. I never too much to Stranger Things, which is perhaps why I also didn’t take to this child-driven Twilight Zone story, but for what it is, It works well and provides a robust handful of scares. 7/10

Movies of the Weeks #33 #34 #35 (2017)

My long holiday has lead to this reviews penury, but I’m back in the saddle, being dragged by a loose wild horse. Which, I guess, I’ve been doing for over 3000 movies now. Yay!

I haven’t spent too much time watching stuff, but you’ll still find a few worthwhile mentions in this summary.

Movie of the Weeks

Raw (2016)*

raw

*aka Grave (2016)

At some point three weeks ago:

  • Brokeback Mountain (2005): Long overdue, I finally got my s**t together and watched Ang Lee’s seminal piece of work. I reckon I’ve enjoyed all Ang Lee movies I’ve seen (bar Hulk (2003), of course, which was merely tolerable), so it’s no surprise that Brokeback proved to be all that was said about it and more. There’s little point in dwelling on the homosexuality of it, because the attachment between the two and their love feels authentic on a universal scale. The elliptic storytelling helps create this sense of forced distance between them, as Lee only provides sparse moments of sentimentality to outline the longing the two protagonists must feel. Overall, I’d reckon its gentleness won my over, the light touch with which everything is imbued, even the harshness of time passing over isolated romances. 8/10

At some other point three weeks ago:

  • The Wailing (2016): This Korean zombie/possession movie comes to provide the expected other-worldly-ness so often attached to non-American horror flicks. Well, horror is perhaps an overstatement, but unsettling, to be sure. As an inexplicable murderous stints start occurring in rural Korea, a bumbling cop gets himself in the position of having to find a way to save his daughter, who becomes afflicted of whatever damned curse is propagating in the area. The whole thing works as a powerful allegory for deep-roted mistrust in foreigners, which tends to generate a retaliatory cycle. As a piece of film-making, it stands above the crowd thanks to its beautiful cinematography and score. So, yeah, watch it. 8/10

At yet another point three weeks ago:

  • Raw (2016): After waiting for a long time to watch this controversial flick, I am pleased to report of my contention over the experience. In a sense it would be spoilerish to go deep into the plot, so to keep it short: nice, young vegan girl goes to French college where she gets to experience new things. Ok, she starts eating meat. Ok, it’s human meat. Taking the whole ‘college will change you’ line and giving it a completely new meaning, Raw manages to really underscore how the social pressures collide with the growing need for personal self-expression. It can be a horror story, filled with anxiety, anguish, alienation, and that’s the bullseye the movie aims at – and firmly strikes. For some obscure reason, I found it the most compelling experience of these weeks, not due to the shock value, but because it finds that line where youthful omnipotence meets cluelessness about ones very own self in a naturalistic manner. 8/10

Moving forward to two weeks ago:

  • Band Aid (2017): Zoe Lister-Jones directed, wrote and starred in this little rom-com about a couple trying to make their relationship work by venting…through songs. It’s a competent piece of film-making, starring Adam Pally and the ever bizarre Fred Armisen, but in spite of its intentions and witty execution, I never really got into it very much. Might be something for the less cynical than me, though. 6/10

Still two weeks ago:

  • The Kid (1921): I have generally had a hard time really enjoying Chaplin. In this one, however, I managed to latch onto the short tale with more ease than expected. The gist of the story is that a poor, single woman decides to give up the baby she can’t raise and stows it away in a posh-looking car, in the hope that whatever rich family owns it, will provide the child with a good life. In a twist of fate, the car is then stolen by a couple of goons who ditch the baby in a dumpster, where Chaplin’s tramp finds him. Already this set-up felt heart-breaking and, most assuredly, life doesn’t get easier for the kid and its ‘foster parent’, as they next seen engaging in a life of petty thievery to survive. The upside of it all is that in spite of all this, they make it work as a family. It’s corny, but it works, because Chaplin taps into what I’d perceive to be human nature with ease and perspicacity. 8/10

Times, they are a-changing:

  • Williams (2017): As a big F1 fan, watching Williams was a must. While the documentary is nowhere near the poetic insightfulness of Werner Herzog’s mind worms, it still fleshes out a complex family built around a patriarchal archetype fueled by the obsession for motorsports. Frank Williams, the founder of the F1 team, seems borderline autistic in his masculine world-view on the narrow role emotions are to have in life. Although the story is factually interesting, I would fault it for failing to dig deep enough, i.e. beyond the obvious macho and misogynist tendencies of the motorsports community in years past. F1 enthusiasts will probably enjoy it in spite of this and some aspects of the tale do play well for general crowds too, so it might be worth a look-see. 7/10

Getting there:

  • Song to Song (2017):  I will admit to being pushed into watching this and finding it really hard to enjoy.  Arguably, this is the pretentious equivalent of those New Year’s movies with star studded casts, which turn out to be the cheapest form of holiday entertainment one could put together for a quick boost of the national economy. Here, the likes of Gosling, Fassbender and Rooney Mara aim to gain some more art-house credentials by teaming up in Terrence Malick’s flick about, I don’t know, how fleeting relationships are?, but the whole thing proves an overlong, dull mess without purpose. It’s funny, because I enjoyed Days of Heaven (1978), which is equally purposeless in a sense, but far more coherent artistically. Then again, don’t take it from me, I’m no expert on pretentiousness (beyond my writing, of course), and no huge fan of Malick either, so maybe this is your film-heroin thing. 4/10

And finally:

  • The Hitman’s Bodyguard (2017):  Can I be excused now and rate this very average, but occasionally humorous, buddy comedy a tad higher than an ambitious art-house movie? Ryan Reynolds and nearly 70-year old Samuel L. Jackson team up to play contract killer protector and contract killer in this snarky movie that brings nothing new to the table – well, Jackson does bring his best ‘motherfucker’ game on the day, but as Reynold’s character justifiably points out:

This guy single-handedly ruined the word motherfucker.

So…I don’t know, if you want a light laugh, this might work. People seem to have enjoyed it. Me, not so much. Great to see Amsterdam once more, though. 5/10