Movies of the Week #24 (2018)

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Vicarious lovin’

  • Set It Up (2018): I’ve already written a few words on this newest Netflix addition, out of some dubious creative surge. There isn’t much to dwell on here, as ‘Set It Up’ proves the ideal low-stakes Friday night Netflix watch. 7/10

Food and career adjustments

  • Chef (2014): When Jon Favreau isn’t the world famous director of Iron Man, he likes to dwell in the food porn genre. Here, he plays a chef who is forced to redefine himself and the relationship he has with his son. It’s an age-old story of successful people becoming boxed in by their success, as the world ends up demanding their best hits all the time, with little patience for exploration. Maybe Favreau feels some of the heat coming from directing a superhero movie (the superhero movie that ignited a never-ending universe), which is why Chef proves to be a thoroughly entertaining and mouth-watering flick. However, especially in its latter part, it seems to run out of narrative, so it conveniently just keeps flipping Mexican fast food for your enjoyment. Man, I’m hungry just by writing about it. 7/10

Let’s talk about Adolf

  • Denial (2016): My mother was surprised that there was/is such a thing as people who actively deny the holocaust. I had maybe heard of Irving at some point, but it’s fascinating to think that people would mike a life calling out of this. Indeed, as the movie’s protagonist, Deborah Lipstedt, points out, such people usually have an agenda, which, in the case of Irving, was reinstating Hilter’s ‘legacy’ as a great commander. This required delimiting him from the systematic extermination of European Jews and other ‘impure races’. It seems absurd that anyone would take the time to listen to deniers at length, just as absurd as a hundred minute long movie setting itself apart with the wider complexities of this topic. Rachel Weisz, Tom Wilkinson and Timothy Spall really make the best out of it and the movie actually manages to strike a balance between memorializing and ‘factualizing’. Unfortunately, the narrative is poorly structured and lacks any dramatic heft, two shortcomings that the cast cannot compensate for.  6/10

Let’s talk about Arafat

  • Beirut (2018): Movies about the Middle East are usually messy, with all kinds of political intricacies. Exhaustive explanations are required to make sense of how all parties align. This is also true of Beirut, a movie set in the 70s and 80s in Lebanon, in the heyday of terrorist attacks and guerrilla warfare due to the area’s ethnic fragmentation. With the American involvement supporting Israeli interests, there’s a lot of sides to pick from. While this all might sound familiar, Beirut does a good job in creating tension and its pacing ensure the action remains lively. It won’t redefine the genre or the topic, but it will fill an empty Sunday evening, between a German defeat and a Brazilian draw. 7/10

Review: Set It Up (2018)

Zoey Deutch and Glen Powell reunite after the excellent Everybody Wants Some (2016) in this low frills, high-chemistry rom-com. There isn’t much to dwell on here, as ‘Set It Up’ proves the ideal low-stakes Friday night Netflix watch.

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Deutch and Powell play Harper and Charlie, two young and ambitious characters working for a very special brand of pushy, domineering bosses. When they realize their common predicament, they set out to…set up their bosses, in the hope that it will lead to quality of life improvements for themselves. In an ironic twist, the ones being pushed around leverage their insights into personal scheduling and personal preferences to ensure the mis-match ends up matching. As is usual for mischievous do-gooders, there will be fraternizing and moral conundruming. And it will be fun.

Any successful rom-com hinges on the compatibility of its leads. Luckily, that’s not an issue here, with both potential couples gelling or not gelling just as intended. It’s the energy of all four key characters that keeps the movie alive, thanks to the odd piece of witty writing or amusing situation. I think I only rolled my eyes once at some ultra-corny moment that could have been avoided, but beyond that, director Claire Scanlon works gently and fairly with her characters. Everybody learns an important life lesson by the end and, surprisingly, it’s a lesson I relate to, although I’ve never had the issue of overworking myself in order to avoid pursuing my passions. There are other, more pleasureful ways of doing it.

***

Movies of the Week #23 (2018)

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Forever coeds

  • Et si on vivait tous ensemble (2011): I’ve always been a proponent of this – in an ideal life, you would live in a house or, let’s say, a residential complex with all your friends. It’s the idea behind All Together (English title), as six elderly friends in their 70s decide to move in together, after one of them suffers a cardiac accident. Mildly evocative of the actual 1970s, as it becomes apparent later on, the movie is a kind tale that often feels chopped together. The strong global cast helps it along, but it never really got me going. I’m not even sure what it could have done better. 6/10

When time stands still

  • Before I Fall (2017): One of my fetishistic micro-genres, the ‘groundhog day rinse’, rears it’s head once more! After the underwhelming and unlikable Happy Death Day (2017)there was little hope left in me that the template can yield new, even moderately exciting experiences. Which is why I ignored Before I Fall for a long time. It was both a wise choice and a foolish one, as the movie does follow suit for too long to be truly entertaining, but when it does let go, it feels true to itself – especially in the ending it chooses. Even if the schmaltzier moments might irk you, there’s a guarantee that you’ll see at least two very appealing houses, where the thing was shot. For once, though, I really feel the movie was let down by opting for voice-over narration, and that it would have been the better without it. So there it is, a recommendation! 7/10

The real truth

  • The Tale (2018): Wow. Just wow. I don’t usually appreciate movies about abuse at all (well, you know what I mean), but The Tale approaches this semi-autobiographical story in an original, inspiring manner that I’ve never seen before. When our lead is faced with letters from her youth, her perception of how she grew up and the people she met along the way take a big hit. The way in which Jennifer sets out to rediscover the truth and cope with it is presented with so much tact and care, both narratively and cinematically, that I couldn’t help being enthralled with it. Director Jennifer Fox, upon whose experiences the movie is (loosely?) based, captures the evanescence of youth with great flair, while finding a perfectly suitable contrast to make it stand out against without becoming more grotesque than it is. The Tale proves to be one of the best movies I’ve seen this year, without a doubt. 9/10

When the boys come into town

  • The Bar (2017): It took me a while to remember where I had heard of director Alex de la Iglesia. Then, it hit me – that dreadful Messi documentary. There’s this sense that de la Iglesia has a different strong suit, which is sometimes apparent in The Bar (English title). When a mixed group of people becomes trapped in a cheap bar, spirits flare up quickly, especially once panic sets in – apparently, a sharpshooter is killing everyone exiting the place. I won’t spoil the twist, even if it’s not a great one. The movie felt dynamic for about an hour, in spite of its abhorrent characters, but as these trickled down, the last twenty minutes quickly ‘peaked’ towards the ultra-tedious. Yeah, so not quite great in the end. 5/10

Angry just isn’t the way to go

  • 12 Angry Men (1957): Out of competition, of course, as I’ve seen it several times by now. It’s one of those truly timeless movies about human nature, constructed with a clinical understanding of what drives us to behave as we do. More than that, Lumet’s classic is entertainment at its best, with variations on the theme still showing up periodically. If you haven’t seen it, just do it, and if you’re really allergic to black and white, then watch the remake, which is still pretty darn good. But the original is the original. 9/10

Movies of the Week #21 #22 (2018)

Podcast here.

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Call me Mr. Pool

  • Deadpool 2 (2018): The anti-superhero you love to laugh with is back and aiming for new heights. And lows. With its particular brand of meta-humour up a notch, Deadpool proves just about as fun as its predecessor – which was fun enough for me. Sure, it can get tiresome, especially if you’re not into all the references and nudges, but I can proudly claim that nothing went over my head! Well, except the things which dead and I am unaware of, I suppose. Anyhooow, there are a bunch of really good moments cramped mostly in the middle of the movie, with the rest proving an uneven affair. But Deadpool pulls no punches, often aimed at itself, which is refreshing – for a while. I guess I’m easily pleased by the comic-book movies which don’t take themselves seriously, which is why I enjoyed this one. So give it a go and wait for the post-credits. 7/10

          P.S. Rob Delaney!!!

          P.P.S Yes, I would totally go for ‘luck’ as a superpower!

As if the universe needs more EL James

  • Book Club (2018): Gathering a memorable cast of actresses around their seventies just about makes Book Club a passable experience – well, passable if you don’t care that it feels like someone pitched it as a vehicle to get an undertargeted, older generation jump onto new-tech and new-lit. I guess you can’t have any expectations of a movie which recommends 50 Shades of Grey as an integral element in improving our world. Thankfully, there’s some virtue in showcasing the potential of romantic life beyond your sixties, even if the script is about as imaginative as a broke accountant. Sooo…yeah, I don’t know, maybe if the trailer appeals to you? 5/10

          P.S. Jane Austen Book Club – better.

‘Good breeding gone bad’

  • Thoroughbreds (2017): In his very first movie, which Corey Finley wrote and directed, the filmmaker manages to create and capture a spectacularly tense atmosphere, vividly portrayed through the eyes and souls of two emotionally dejected youths. The atmosphere borrows articulately from Chan-wook Park’s Stoker (2013), but Finley’s characters stand out more. Amanda, a girl devoid of emotions, is sent by her mother to get tutored by Lily, an emotionally ambivalent character, with both treading deeply into dysfunctional territory. The movie wraps around your throat with the ominous delight of white privilege and a boa constrictor, without making any concessions. Might need a rewatch to promote it to ‘delight’ level, but it’s really close regardless! 8/10

The Mexican themed joy-ride

  • Gringo (2018): Director Nash Edgerton steers his brother Joel for two hours into the land of convulsive, bloated storylines during this wannabe cool-ass movie. In spite of its great cast and an utterly alluring Charlize Theron, Gringo becomes overly-complicated in a stupid ways really quickly. It even includes one subplot that’s totally superfluous – like, totally! Whatever Charlize and, particularly, David Oyelowo do to keep this afloat, their efforts are poorly rewarded, leaving you with an underwhelming ending to better suit the underwhelming middle and the just-about-normally-whelming beginning. 4/10

Enjoying school like every other fool

  • Love, Simon (2018): Greg Berlanti, forever of Everwood to me, is behind the much lauded Love, Simon, a high-school tale of coming out. As far as compassionate movies about the cheesiest times of our lives go, there’s little to be criticized about dear, old Simon. However, there are only few stand-out moments in the movie, which, for the most part, doesn’t do too much to be in the least daring or controversial – well, beyond the coming out part, but that has already had its share of Hwood treatments. If anything, I felt frustrated by how picture-perfect Simon’s potential love interests were, with one particular scene where he treats some less attractive options with actual dismay feeling hypocritical. 7/10