At my most prolific when the year begins, the second week of 2018 brings with itself a respectable crop, with the one non-2017 movie taking the laurels.
As you may or may not have noticed, I’m trying to keep the interest alive on facebook by posting some tid-bits immediately after watching something, with the full on take (or whatever this is) scheduled for the beginning of the following week. Hopefully this will help bring to your attention some viewing choices.
Movie of the Week
Howards End (1992)
A poker movie not about poker
- Molly’s Game (2017): Watching an Aaron Sorkin movie is like going to McDonald’s – you know what you’re getting and you’ll probably feel bad about it a day later. Sorkin, after achieving quite a reputation as a screenwriter, to the level of Charlie Kaufman one might argue, takes over the director’s helm for the first time here. The result is an exciting, if uneven retelling of Molly Bloom’s story, “an Olympic-class skier who ran the world’s most exclusive high-stakes poker game and became an FBI target.”. You’ll have your Sorkin-esque zippy talk, voice-over, literary references, metaphors fed with organic ink, and impassioned speeches, which all come across pretty well, thanks to Jessica Chastain’s and Idris Elba’s performances. If anything, I could have done with a little less cleavage screen-time from Chastain, but I guess that went with the job – a Sorkin movie isn’t just metaphorically sexy, after all. Certain scenes felt like a let down unfortunately, and having your foot on the viewer’s jugular can become tiresome at some point. Molly’s Game tries hard to reach The Social Network’s (2010) gait and posture, but lacks Fincher’s steadfast touch, which somehow still found time to be sensitive, not just forceful. 7/10
Oh, oh you’re in the army, now
- Thank You for Your Service (2017): It’s terribly difficult to make a fresh and relevant movie about war or the consequences of war, especially in the United States. It’s perhaps wrong to say that there’s such a thing as war-movie fatigue, but there’s some truth to it. TYfYS take a hard, harsh look at the lives of three young soldiers returning from active duty, who are scarred to hell and back, while finding it next to impossible to get the help they require in order to function as social human beings. I wasn’t sure it would stick to me, but Miles Teller’s performance grounded, even personified a struggle which otherwise might have been written off as too generic. It works and feels. Yeah, it works and feels. 7/10
Did some big tennis tournament just start?
- Borg McEnroe (2017): The second much-lauded tennis movie of 2017 (alongside Battle of the Sexes) is almost a success. It brings us up close to Bjorn Borg and, to a lesser degree I felt, to Johnnie Mac, painting at least one enticing portrait. The Swedish former number one, whose relationship with Romanian tennis player Mariana Simionescu is also portrayed, offers a great sense of the kind of self-management one needs to prove capable of in order to turn and channel your energy towards the positive. From all my tennis playing, which is not much at all, I’ve felt that the sport tended to bring out my inner most competitor, with myself always on the other side of the net, regardless of who the actual opponent was. You get that from BvM. Unfortunately, the drawn out dramatization of the 1980 Wimbledon final is plagued by all the imaginable commentary cliches, which definitely diminished my appreciation of the scenes. The attempt to portray two complicated personalities in one movie also falls short, which is why I can’t fully recommend an otherwise exciting, at points beautiful movie. 7/10
Those old school Brits, what a halfway non-ironic joy
- Howards End (1992): A sort of insider’s take on class in the British society of the early 1900s, the three time Academy Award winning picture by James Ivory defines the word “lavish”. In a complex story of social dynamics and expectations, E.M. Forster’s novel really fleshes out what assumed privilege looks like, wherein the protagonists don’t even fathom asking the same questions of themselves as they ask of others. It’s just not in their mental syntax. The final scene is a marvelous example thereof. An all around great cast and a beautiful classical score accompanying the not quite as stellar of a story work in unison to create a good movie. 8/10
Some good old ultraviolence
- Mayhem (2017): The ‘i-hate-my-job-i’m-going-to-kill-everyone’ movie of the week award definitely goes to Mayhem. A virus that diminishes self-control spreads in an office building that’s just ripe for some revenge fetishes to be indulged in. All hell ensues, in a playful and violent exorcism of ‘nine to five’ fatigue, which makes the movie play out like a videogame, with levels and bosses and all the usual kapow. If you don’t mind the PG-13 visual levels of gruesome violence, Mayhem can and does provide a charming make-belief distraction from the bitter feuds of the work place. 7/10
- Professor Marston and the Wonder Women (2017): It’s always an interesting surprise to find out more, a totally unexpected side about an accepted mainstream figure and its origins. William Marston, the creator of Wonder Woman, was quite the polyamorous professor of psychology and is relationship with his wife and their mistress (one of them) is incisively portrayed here. The two, of course, were the inspiration to the ‘most famous’ female superhero. With a greater sexual load and more perversion than I could have expected, PMatWW surprised me most pleasantly and that’s not just because I’m a perverted human being. It did so by pleading an eloquent case for free love. However, it loses points when it comes to nuances, which are lacking. This leads to a certain lack of veracity and depth, the presence of which would really have made the movie memorable. 7/10