Movies of the Week #50 #51 #52 (2017)

End of the year bonanza!

Movie of the weeks

bulworth

Bulworth (1998): It might sound silly, but I haven’t had such a good time with a movie I had no expectations of in many, many months! Bulworth is pretty despised in some corners of the internet, even considered a cinematic abomination, but that all went beyond me. The movie takes on the ‘politician-gone-mad-before-reelection’ spin and provides a racially charged debate on the issues of segregation, big business and social disparity within the US in the mid-nineties. All to the tune and rhythm of a stereotypical white man’s idea of rap. Yeah. It might not be completely convincing in its arguments, but the verve Warren Beatty brings to the experience is something else. More so, this probably ranks as my favourite Halle performance, even ahead of her award-winning performance in Monster’s Ball (2001) and I’m not even kidding. That’s not to say that her part in Bulworth has more depth, but still. So yeah, quite the crazy joy ride! 8/10

The Spirit of Christmas (2015): Is there even such a thing as a good movie with ‘Christmas’ in the title? I tried my luck again after last week’s A Christmas Prince (2017), but it didn’t help. In this approach, a know-it-all-except-how-to-love lawyer lady is sent to ensure the appraisal of a ‘haunted’ inn, where she finds a damned handsome ghost to keep her company. As she tries to help me figure out why he’s stuck there for, presumably, all eternity, the two grow fond of each other and nothing exciting happens. The end. There’s little to recommend this movie for, with the best thing I can write about it being that it feels competent enough. What’s definitely lacking is any and all Christmas charm. 4/10

The Battle of the Sexes (2017): This wannabe underdog story lacks the emotional punch to be truly satisfying, but manages to emphasize the right things along the way. It’s all about the show, American style, and if there’s a cause behind it, well that’s just an unexpected benefit. Emma Stone (as Billie Jean King) and Steve Carell (as Bobby Riggs) inhabit a couple of lackluster characters that happen to have a lot of nuance to them – even too much, at times, for the scope of the movie. With so many things going on, side characters really get tossed aside as soon as they’ve played some narrative purpose, the old and the conventional is villainized stereotypically, and there’s just not enough time to flesh out a riveting story. At least the tennis looked fine. 6/10

Trevor Noah: Afraid of the Dark (2017): Trevor Noah is a talented enough comedian to hold an audience for one hour without being original or very funny. I never took to him as the The Daily Show host, but I didn’t give him much of a chance either. In this stand up not much of the material made me rethink my lack of patience towards ‘the new guy’. Noah’s accents are amusing, but by themselves they offer little in terms of entertainment. A cluster of uninspiring anecdotes, littered with the odd, heavy handed reflective moment, amount to this show barely getting a passing grade. 5/10

Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (2012): For whatever obscure reason, I ended up watching this, without even having seen the ‘original’. I’m quite certain I did not miss much, with Journey 2 building up to a tame, uninteresting CGI fest, with truly obnoxious and stereotypical characters. Not even Dwayne Johnson manages to ‘bring it’. Perhaps that’s why I ended up watching J2, was that I thought it to be connected with The Rock’s previous jungle movie, The Rundown (2003). Silly me. Which is not to say that Jumanji 2 (2017)or Rampage (2018) (the latter also directed by this pic’s helmer, Brad Peyton) might not all form a miraculous Rock-niverse with unspoken connections. 4/10

Viceroy’s House (2017): An interesting movie about the British departure from India and the country’s split with Pakistan is watered down by a godawful romance melodrama that defies belief, no matter how much it’s inspired from a true story. I realized how ignorant I am of the historical context concering almost any non-European country during the last century, which, I guess, means I should be watching some documentaries, not dramatizations. For what it’s worth, the movies kept my attention and had it not been let down by Gurinder Chadha choices in regards to the script and the directorial focus, it could have really been worth recommending. 6/10

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017): One can never repeat enough that he/she is not a Star Wars fan before critiquing the movies, just like those disclaimers advertisers have to use when promoting pharmaceuticals. That being said, it’s hard to understand the critical adulation of an okay, but unimpressive story which simply evades anything that seems unsafe. When it’s not pushing hard to cater to the new generation of fans, the occasionally ruinous dialogue or the abomination of a plot keep the whole thing from really engaging beyond the showmanship. And, heck, the showmanship is good, I felt my heart racing at times, but on each occasion that the thing could’ve left a mark, it veered away into the inconsequential. This plethora of universe building movies, be it the makings of Star Wars, Marvel’s Avengers, DC’s Justice League, etc. is just tiresome. At their best, the movies are a spectacle and The Last Jedi scores highly on this scale. At their worst, they are underdeveloped and overcooked, another scale on which TLS rests near the unwelcome top. 6/10

Commando (1985): aka the original Taken (2008) on steroids. The absolute Schwarzenegger vehicle in which the man not only saves his kidnapped daughter, but also manages to kill an army-sized militia single handedly while charming the pants off a stewardess he kindly abducts early on in the story. All within twelve hours. Not a bad day’s work. It’s silly as hell, sure, but, damn it, wasn’t Arnie a lot of fun back in the day? Like that final fight, where he takes on a former comrade and it looks like Schwarzenegger is in the best commando shape of his life, while the other guy seems to have taken up a career as an oversized Freddie Mercury impersonator? And all those one-liners? Just good, good 80s fun! 7/10