Movies of the Week #20 (2018)

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MoTW20

Brrrrains

  • The Cured (2018): Here’s a slightly fresh take for the zombie inside all of us – a post-apocalyptic world with cured ‘infected’, who fail to reintegrate into society. A very timely allegory to whatever we’ve been living through these last few years. Unfortunately, the movie features an unconvincing antagonist, even if he is well suited to represent the kind of populist, vindictive attitudes that plague us. Moreso than the antagonist being unsuited, it’s his initial shift that felt unconvincing. Everything afterwards was too predictable for its own good, making the movie feel like a bit of drag. Add to that the fact that I just can’t see Ellen Page playing a mother with a seven year old son (I know, how petty of me) and you have a mixed bag to deal with. 6/10

In a world with no sense of humor

  • The Clapper (2017): Poor Ed Helms playing alongside poor Amanda Seyfried in this emotionally stunted drama/comedy was one of the saddest sights I’ve seen in movies this year. Not that either Helms or Seyfried are acting powerhouses, but they’re likable enough to make you feel for them – well, not in this one. The Clapper takes a vaguely interesting idea and takes it nowhere: a guy who earns his living by being an audience member for infomercials hits trouble when he gets ‘found’ by a regional, low-frills talk-show that ruins his claim for anonymity.  The story goes from interesting to lame in the blink of an eye, because director/writer Dito Montiel is satisfied with a lazy, lazy script and some digs at the sensationalism of low-frills TV. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black. So yeah, do yourselves a favor and avoid it. 3/10

Art. Artist. A(r)therosclerosis.

  • Final Portrait (2017): Can mere mortals say where the line is between artistic process and artistic whimsy? Stanley Tucci’s movie about  Alberto Giacometti makes a big wager on ‘no’. It feels almost like a caricature, rooted in the artist’s  insatiability for the irreconcilable: he is happy only when he is truly anguished, he is most doubtful when he is most successful and, naturally, he is incapable of ever truly finishing an artistic ‘gesture’. While derivative at times, there are glimpses of affectionate irony in Giacometti’s portrayal, a found cause looking to be lost, that concludes with a very suitable send-off. Sure, it’s not the most exciting piece of film-making ever made, but it has personality, which is always a good stand-in, especially in the acting hands of Geoffrey Rush. 8/10

Implants

  • Zoom (2015): Just one of those movies that have been on my watch-list for a million years (i.e. maximum three), Pedro Morelli’s Zoom is a visually creative, narratively ambitious and thematically underwhelming experience that does enough to be recommended – especially for the geek brigade. Half live-action feature, half animation, this story within a story tackles prejudices and expectations stemming from body issues. It juggles one character/layer too many to be a truly solid movie with enough time to say something pertinent about life. This hints at the limited experience of director Morelli and screenwriter Hansen, but there’s promise to them nonetheless.

Movies of the Week #19 (2018)

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https://soundcloud.com/user-157068900/motw19

MoTW19

What about Manchester?

  • Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool (2018): An old-school affair of romance between an aging star and an up and coming actor, the movie lives and breathes thanks to its leading couple, Anette Bening and Jamie Bell. It might not be the most original story ever told, but the care with which it treats its characters pays off – a key factor in the pleasurable viewing of such a genre film. I’m not a sucker for true stories, as they usually either end up ruining a good movie for being true to life, but not to film, or the other way around, that they get massaged so much to fit a movie, that there’s but a husk of veracity left to them. Luckily,  given my complete ignorance as to who Gloria Grahame was, it wasn’t much of a factor in this one. 7/10

A Pirate I was meant to be…

  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017): I had given up on Pirates a long time ago, ever since the first sequel. Having missed some of the action since then, I just stumbled across DMTNT on TV and was bored enough to watch it. The movie was about midway through the plot at that point and was mostly uninspired, yet tolerable. When I had the chance to watch the first hour of this thing, I had more to regret, because there’s nothing in it worth remembering. The franchise feels so stale at this point, that no undead pirate anywhere in the world could make it fresh again. Honestly, the only thing that made the first movie stand out was Johnny Depp’s comedic vigour and the way it reminded me of the game Monkey Island. Since then, it’s only gone downhill and were it not for the craploads of cash that it absurdly still rakes in, I’d see no reason for its continued survival. 4/10

Where’s Denny Crane when you need him?

  • L’insulte (2017): The Lebanese film, nominated for Best Foreign Picture, starts as a character-driven drama with political and social undertones, before becoming a full blown court-room spectacle, completely devoid of finesse. The co-leads, between whom a dispute arises due to some charged insults being thrown around, are played convincingly by Adel Karam and Kamel el Basha. The parts of the movie featuring them have a very humanistic quality. All the rest, meaning the trial, feels like an ostentatious, heavy-handed history lesson. And I usually like my history lessons light-handed. 6/10

For moments when the world just sucks

  • Some Freaks (2016): This high-school/college drama takes on fetishes and stigmas relating to body-issues, in a tale of misfits that ends up wallowing in self-pity. That’s perhaps harsh, because there are moments which manage to capture the painful truth of wanting to belong, as well as the trauma of being confronted with the abusive social conglomeration of young adulthood. The problem lies with the fact that Ian MacAllister McDonald’s characters all appear to deserve an extra dollop of existential despair, which tips the balance towards the wallowing. It’s a bit of a shame, because this overarching, irreconcilable sadness ends up clobbering the viewer. I was left with the desire to run away in the last half-hour or so, with all the petty, hurtful acts of meanness and duplicity overwhelming me. But that’s on me, right? Ultimately the movie stuck to me, which is why it gets the MoTW distinction and a 7/10.

But you know who sleeps? I do. Sometimes.

  • Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (2010): I guess it’s been almost a decade since the release of this sequel, a sequel which I mostly appreciated at the time. The original was quite the hit in its day, although for reasons I no longer discern, my rating of it was nothing to write home about. The case is similar with Wall Street II, a movie that already feels dated. However, I enjoyed chunks of it and I especially liked the soundtrack, Brian Eno and David Byrne’s music being put to very good use here. The story wants bridge generations and to provide some insights regarding the financial crisis of the late 2000s. The fact that the movie was shot while still in the midst of it leads to half-assed choices, band-wagoning of green tech and a rushed, totally underwhelming ending. Maybe I’d rate it worse now, but I hold stubbornly firm to my initial grade, a 7/10, thanks to the solid cast and some memorable one-liners. #wheresthebitcointhemedsequeltothis

Movies of the Week #18 (2018)

MotW18

Road trip!

  • Kodachrome (2018): Unfortunately, Kodachrome is an uneven affair, with moments of genuine emotion undone by sloppy craftsmanship. The father-son relationship is equally imperfect, but at least it anchors the film somewhat, thanks to the performance Ed Harris brings to the table. The relationship between the son and the father’s nurse, on the other hand, is cliched and wholly unsatisfying. I’m not sure Jason Sudeikis is made for these slow-burning roles, because they don’t provide the snarky wit that suits him best. Kodachrome falling short saddens me, because it felt so close to putting together a solid movie. 6/10

The solitude of sheep

  • God’s Own Country (2017): There’s a very sweet gentility to a movie set, contrastingly, in the harshness of farming life. Francis Lee’s first major motion picture is rightly praised as one of the most significant LGBT films of recent years, but it succeeds regardless of sexual conviction. Its protagonist leads a frustrated, emotionally sterile country life with no avenue for escape, before the foreigner arrives to show him there are other ways to do it. At its core, GOW is a love story that peddles affection, which has gone amiss amongst the rough expectations attached to small, family owned farms. It works, however, on all kinds of levels, as we become witnesses to the power of example, care and commitment. A strong cinema outing, that’s for sure. 8/10

The soon-to-be second highest grossing movie in history

  • The Avengers: Infinity War (2018): You know me by now, I’m not the biggest fan of superhero franchises. They have all become a bit of a blur and Infinity War epitomizes that, with a plethora of characters, constant blow-uppery and a massive dramatic arc. However, it also proves an entertaining, might I say ’emotional’ journey, towards the end of the Marvel Universe as we know it. If only there wasn’t this sense that it’s, really, just smoke and that the consequences can only be those that don’t hurt the bottom line – let’s see if the screenwriters are telling the truth here (spoilers!).  The Avengers, like most superhero melanges, are doomed to some form of mediocrity, which is not to say that a mediocre story can’t be appealing. For what it’s worth, my expectations were slightly surpassed and I was left with the image of a devastated teenage girl a few seats away from me, overwhelmed by what she had witnessed. Seriously, it’s that rough. 7/10

On a quiet Thursday evening

  • Most Likely to Murder (2018): I ended up watching this because I sort of tolerate Adam Pally and am a big fan of Rachel Bloom’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. There’s nothing fancy about the story, in which Billy, an a-hole poser, returns to his home town, where nobody really cares for him because he’s an a-hole, a reality he fails to grasp. When it turns out the former high-school dork is now a well respected member of the community, who also happens to be dating the girl our lead a-hole deserted years back, Billy starts suspecting he is hiding something. While not a total waste of time, the movie tries to defy convention and it only turns out to be underwhelming, because it feels like there’s no proper ending to it. Empathizing with a-holes who end up seeing the light is rarely entertaining, nor truly revealing. Also, that title? Who thought it was a good idea? 5/10

Outlander, the animated movie

  • Brave (2012): Another animation movie that proves to be a tame affair, which has one thing going for it, that there were no ridiculously high expectations attached to it. You have your princess who refuses to bow to her mother’s demands of marrying on cue, then thinks it’s a good idea to curse her mother in changing her mind. This whole plot takes forty minutes to unfold and is mostly uninteresting, but vaguely amusing at times. The next twenty minutes or so actually peaked my interest, because changing her mother’s mind happened in a completely unexpected manner. Sadly, it wound down to the formulaic in the end, with neat lessons to be laid out before us. I guess the animation saves the experience, because it’s easy on the eye and the Scottish-ness of is absurdly, insensitively funny. 6/10

Laugh on cue

  • Game Night (2018): For me, Game Night was just one of those perfect little comedies: great cast, lotsa film references and an over-the-top plot filled with twists. Sure, the twists were fairly predictable, with gaping plot-holes around, but the execution was top notch. No surprise there, as the movie stars the likes of Jason Bateman, Rachel McAdams, Jesse Plemons and the lovely Sharon Horgan of CatastropheI’m not even a fan of game nights – if anything, I’m the hater – because I can neither disconnect, nor truly enjoy them. But the movie let me do both and half-way through it I was laughing my head off. I guess it’s a bit like Horrible Bosses, just better. 8/10