Movies of the Week #42 (2017)

So much forgettable in a single week, disgusting. That’s what holidays do to your movie watching habits!

Movie of the Week

Wind River (2017)

windriver

Just before departure

  • Better Watch Out (2016): This little slasher pic takes a few slasher tropes and turns them on their head, in the ironic way that appears to be the sole redemption of slashers nowadays. Young-but-old-enough kid and babysitter appear threatened by criminal elements in what turns out to be something a little different. I guess BWO really conveys the power of the gun, just as it thrives on false expectations. Ultimately, it doesn’t really enthrall, ending on a terribly predictable whimper, but its redeeming take on the genre makes it somewhat commendable. 6/10

And we’re off

  • Wind River (2017): Taylor Sheridan is definitely starting to stand out as a memorable screenwriter. After the excellent Sicario (2015) and Hell or High Water (2016), he takes on double duty for Wind River in his directorial debut. The movie tracks the disappearance/murder of a girl in a winter wonderland featuring the modern day displacement of Native Americans. Ultimately, it’s more of a general story about social exclusion, with Jeremy Renner’s tracker-hunter character slotting in nicely, just like Elizabeth Olsen’s (female) FBI agent, sent into no-man’s-land to establish jurisdiction on the criminal proceedings. The grisly conclusion might take a strong stomach to digest, but it’s worth it. 8/10

The festering wait

  • Free Fire (2016): Long on the to-watch-list, director Ben Wheatley keeps it consistent with another movie that’s interesting conceptually, but just doesn’t hold up through its runtime. With a star studded cast, including Brie Larson, Cillian Murphy, Armie Hammer and Sharlto Copley, I just felt that the gun-running story started dragging past its half-way point and never really recovered. The “everyone trying to screw everyone else over” shtick is overcooked and the characters prove to be quite the uncharismatic bunch – except for Hammer and the ever-expansive Copley. A reasonably competent genre film, all in all. 6/10

The Stephen King-athon

  • 1922: I think this makes it the third SK adaptation released within the last two months – it’s like we’re back in the 90s! This story, about a hateful in-family dispute, stars a veteran Stephen King character-actor/actor-character, in Thomas Jane (Dreamcatcher (2003), The Mist (2007)), who pretty much steals the show. Unfortunately, I failed to truly get behind this rat-infested horror tale, perhaps because I am impartial to rats on a screen, or perhaps because the pacing is a bit slow. The whole thing still works, but again, mostly for genre fans. 6/10

Counter-balance

  • The First Time (2012): Had to appease the unappeased, after the SK bucket of rat feces I made everyone indulge in, so I made a drastic choice to go for a big bucket of slush. Surprisingly, in spite of an uninspiring, vaguely charismatic, chemistry-less, but suitably awkward lead couple, TFT proved to not be a total throwaway. There are the odd moments of authenticity which allow it to stand on its own two feet, although these prove to be too sparsely spread in what is, ultimately, just a teen movie about alienation and sex. If that’s what your looking for, and you happen to be fifteen, great. If not, well… 5/10

The old and the restless

  • Our Souls at Night (2017): Ritesh Batra, director of the highly likable The Lunch Box (2013)tries his hand on another story about companionship, starring Jane Fonda and Robert Redford. There is no question here of compatibility or aimless awkwardness, as Fonda and Redford are a couple of the most distinguished and versatile living American actors, both basically in their 80s now, but not looking it. Their two characters come together for a non-romantic relationship aimed at filling their solitary lives, after each had lost their long-time partners. It’s a gentle, sentimental ride, but ultimately OSaN failed to really engage me. In fact, it just kept reminding me of I’ll See You in My Dreams (2015), a film on the same subject which did it all and did it better, for reasons I can’t really recall. So maybe start with that and if you really like it, then give OSaN a shot as well. 6/10

 

Movies of the Weeks #40 #41 (2017)

Being productive while gaping away at the ripples of the Mediteranean is not that easy. Well, it’s easy, it just isn’t right, in a fundamentally existential way. That’s probably what Villeneuve and co. thought while making this movie of the weeks.

Movie of the Weeks

Blade Runner 2049

blade runner

Some manic Monday

  • Gerald’s Game (2017): This was the first Stephen King book I ever read, funnily enough. I remember not quite understanding what it was all about, all the way back in my early teenage years. In this adaption, all the skin-crawlies are well retained, adding to a thoroughly thrilling and engaging movie about trauma and obsessions. Both sexual. It fared better in my mind than the higher caliber It (2017), thanks to a couple of convincing performances by Carla Gugino and Bruce Greenwood. What’s more, unlike It, which has its scares, GG just felt way more unsettling in a way more palpable way. Just it’s conclusion is a bit whack, although I get the symbolic gesture of horror being in the eye of the beholder. 8/10

Super-hero Tuesday

  • Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017): Never having been a big SM fan, I didn’t rush to see the latest, Avengers imbued iteration. It turns out, I was wrong to avoid it, as the new and improved Tom Holland version of the boy in red tights is both fun and not at all too serious. For all it’s derision of the all-knowing super-hero model, I did feel that Michael Keaton’s villain was unsurprising and, implicitly, underwhelming. If you dig this whole universe building exercise by Marvel (and DC, for that matter), there’s no reason to shy away from SMH. Otherwise, your life will be about as fulfilling without it. 7/10

When the Girls come into Town

  • Girls Trip (2017): For whatever reason, I’ve been eagerly awaiting this well reviewed, female African American version of the Hangover. I had seen Malcolm D. Lee’s The Best Man (1999) and its sequel, both of which I thought enjoyable. GT aligns itself well with Lee’s previous efforts. There isn’t much to these genre flicks: if you have a competent writer and actors with good chemistry, odds are something agreeable will come together. Regina Hall, Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith and Tiffany Haddish provide just that. 7/10

Another sequel to our favourite vampire hunter?

  • Blade Runner and Blade Runner 2049: In preparation for the latter, I took the time to enjoy the former once again. Truth be told, I’ve never been fanatical about BR, although I love something like Deus Ex. Upon revisiting it, the original felt a bit sluggish, but definitely memorable. It’s hard to deny the movie’s legacy and influence, with matters of AI and robotics becoming more topical with each passing decade. The sequel achieves the unlikely, in successfully building on the dire, depressing world of Ridley Scott’s initial foray into the matter. One would expect success of director Denis Villeneuve, given his glowing track record. As far as the atmosphere goes, there is nothing to be indicted. As for the pacing, the movie suffers from an unimaginative plot, making the first half feel like it’s dragging some. Fortunately, it builds up to a satisfying face-off, before offering a less than exciting and predictable final sequence. The fact that I didn’t consider it mattered that much is a solid argument towards the compelling vision Villneuve provided for a similar, yet distinctive exploration of the age-old question: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? 8/10

Days come and go

  • Megan Leavey (2017): This fluffy, if not quite light story of a US army person and her attachment to a US army dog feels like it’s stretching something to make it film-worthy. This isn’t to say it’s not at least a bit engaging, just that the stakes aren’t convincing: sure, an attachment between a person and an animal is something to be taken seriously, but ML failed to build the emotional heft to make me shed my cynicism.  Cowperthwaite’s previous effort, the documentary Blackfish (2013), simply worked better because it didn’t require the same emotional argument acceptance in the case of ML does. 6/10

Bloody London

  • Daphne (2017): Critics’ darling Daphne is a movie about solitude and alienation in the digitally enhanced fiefdoms of modern day London. If that sounds like something for you, do not waver. I could definitely emote with the themes of the story, if not the particular sufferings of its titular character, an attachment-fobe treating her social anxieties with the usual drug infused flavours of life. But while Emily Beecham is great in the lead role, you would be well advised to arm yourselves with patience, because even at it’s mere 88 minutes runtime, Daphne proves an acquired, slow burning taste. 7/10

Movies of the Weeks #37 #38 #39 (2017)

It constantly feels like I’m a million weeks behind, but then I check out how many movies I’ve seen and the numbers are dismayingly small. Fact: it’s been less than 0.5 movies/day this year, which is a record low. Fact: there’s no obvious reason for it. Fact: what am I doing writing this in the middle of the night? Perhaps the last one wasn’t a fact.

Movie of the Weeks

Good Time (2017)

goodtime

When I was in London:

  • Logan Lucky (2017): Marketed as a different take on the Ocean’s Eleven template, this Soderberghian adventure takes us on a neat and tidy heist ride. Starring Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Riley Keough, Daniel Craig, Katie Holmes,  et al., the star studded caliber of the joint already brings back some OE memories. I liked it, because of its smooth delivery, punctuated by some zippy humour and an all around tight bank job where everyone gets their fair share. But it’s probably not something you’d write home about, if you were hiding from Interpol, the CIA and whatnot.  7/10

The same day, in London, but on a couch:

  • Hacksaw Ridge (2016): Mel Gibson’s much lauded directorial return is a highly competent, somewhat engaging and mostly forgettable World War II picture. It has the merit of reminding the pagan world that not only the Nazi’s were killing machines, but the Japs were as well – if with fewer dark overtones. The lead of the story, Desmond Doss, is a bit of the antithetical absolute American, in that he doesn’t go out guns blazing – which is really the only un-American thing about him, as the rest of the guy just overflows with the familiar hues of red-white-and-blue patriotism. For what it’s worth, the man saved dozens of fellow soldiers on Hacksaw Ridge, in an act of selflessness that borders the pathological. I’m not sure why I wasn’t taken at all by the character, although if I had to wager a guess, it’s because he lacks any distinguishing inner conflicts beyond the drive to not shot a weapon. Still, the movie works as a whole, even if it’s littered with the predictable, so I am actually going to give it a soft recommendation, on condition that fuzzy heart war stories are your thing. 7/10

A swing to the Romanian:

  • Doua Lozuri (2016): The very highly rated Romanian comedy released last year has been on my to-watch-list ever since I first heard of it more than twelve months ago. Having missed it in the cinemas, it’s time finally came out of sheer boredom. Luckily, it turned out to be an amusing (not-laugh-out-loud) tale, drawing on inspiration from one of the plays penned by every high-schoolers favourite playwright, I.L. Caragiale. Plot in short: three guys buy a lottery ticket; it gets inadvertently stolen and then proves to have some winning numbers on it; quest on for its recovery. The palate of weird, yet not-out-of-place characters encountered on said quest makes the story worthwhile, with one particular scene involving a ‘white Dacia’ tearing me up with subdued laughter. 7/10

And then…

  • Rocco (2016): A Netflix recommendation (man, that account I share with my parents really knows what its doing), the slice of life documentary about pornographic actor Rocco Siffredi starts with a long close up shot of the man’s waist, naked of course, with a running shower pissing water over his legendary manhood in truly poetic fashion.  Unfortunately, it goes mostly downhill from there. With excessive self-characterization, the movie tracks what is supposed to be Rocco’s final porn shoot before dedicating himself to his family. Spreading over 105 minutes, of which it can only justify only about half, the docu offers some insight into the porn industry, but it only stands to attention when the man himself has some overly sexualized tale to tell. Somehow, it’s hard to take it all as seriously as it takes itself, especially since the film fails to dig deep into why Rocco suddenly feels it’s time to end his career (the familial motive provided is both uninteresting, dramatically, and only superficially discussed). So, yeah, not a great way to spend a Monday morning. 4/10

Back to the drawing board:

  • Good Time (2017): After Benny and Josh Safdie’s previous film, Heaven Knows What (2014), I was left pretty much shattered. The experience was immensely consuming. Good Time, in spite of its title, is anything but. Starring Robert Pattinson and Benny Safdie, it tells the story of two brothers, one of which is mentally impaired, who do a bank heist together that goes from bad, to worse, to wtf just happened. With a distinctive electronic/synth-wave score by Oneohtrix Point Never, it’s very much a trance like experience, seemingly headed from point A to point B to point C while disregarding common sense, yet offering a convincing vision of how and why it would happen. It’s somehow pleasing to see that both Pattinson and Kristen Stewart have come off their Twilight highs with the ability and the desire to just follow any passion project that comes their way and offer more low-key, but exciting performances (Clouds of Sils Maria (2014) is a Stewart must). It was my movie of the week, but do expect a rough ride if you go for it. Still…isn’t this great? 8/10