Movies of the Week #33 #34 (2018)

motw33

Games for mice and men

  • Tag (2018): All major movie themes of any given year come in twos – this time, it’s about adult people playing games. After the excellent Game Night (2018)it’s tag’s turn to make a resurgence. The movie, starring a bunch of high caliber actors like Jon Hamm and Jeremy Renner, tells of a group of men whose friendship has survived thanks to their annual game of tag. It’s mostly a fun romp, but for me it failed in its tonal inconsistencies and the manner in which it completely underused most of the female cast in trite subplots. What’s the point of having Rashida Jones if all you want of her is to be an object of desire…erm, well, you know, with no personality and just as an excuse for male rivalry. Not that the part of Annabelle Wallis is any better. And that blatant effort to pander at the end by including the women in the game does nobody any favours. 6/10

Sometimes I think about not watching a movie if its title doesn’t fit on the weekly graphic 

  • The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (2018): It’s not just a mouthful of a title, but also a mouthful of a movie. At over two hours, this (novel-based) story of how a tiny literary society came to be in Guernsey during the Nazi occupation is sometimes sweet, but often tiresome. Although Lily James is a good fit for her part, both her love interests are unconvincing, which isn’t where you want to be if you’re going for romance. Getting past this stumbling block proved difficult for me, and the lackluster story of Nazi resistance didn’t help much either. The historical context, though, caught my interest and got me through the movie, as it did a proper job of capturing the residual pain of loss even as WW2 had ended. Scrapes by with a small recommendation, although people in general seemed to have liked it. 6/10

Tomorrow is today

  • Upgrade (2018): From the mind of Leigh Whannell, creator of Saw, comes a movie set in a blue-tinted cyber future, that borrows heavily from all sorts of similarly themed films, yet manages to put forward an enjoyable ride that feels fresh enough to matter. If you just ignore the ultra-obvious plot (hey, at least it twists in the end), you’ll be sucked into the dim world of tomorrow, where computers can do almost everything, society is harshly segregated and the police are still terribly ineffectual at fighting crime. In this life-inspiring setting, an old-school mechanic will be transformed in an uber-mensch and will struggle to discover who the bad guys are. With the help of a microchip, he will be faster, smarter, better than most people, in a slight Deus-Ex scenario. So if that’s your thing, enjoy. 7/10

Plethora of size jokes incoming

  • Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018): If you thought the first Ant-Man was average, be ready to relive the same feelings as you go through its follow-up. Featuring the same cast, its comic relief and the occasional set-piece make the movie tolerable, but most of it just feels rehashed. Unlike with Upgrade, I don’t feel the need to sympathize with it, because it bears no ambitions. A good-bad-guy is cool enough once, but when he/she starts showing up in all your movies Marvel, then something’s wrong. The only truly exciting moment comes in the first after-credits scene, so judge that as you will. 6/10

For that rainy night when you feel lonesome

  • Columbus (2017): Talk about beautiful, lush and introspective cinema! Kogonada’s feature length debut is an ode to the marvels of design, small-town life and a-harmonious families. It’s a joy to watch and feel, even though its trailer seems uninspiring – perhaps because the narrative isn’t quite memorable, nor are the actors inhabiting the two leads, but there’s just enough there to hold the movie’s inner life together. It has a scent of Lost in Translation, thanks to its quiet admiration for people and places grown out of solitude, something that should feel familiar and blue in an instant. Delicious. 8/10

Movies of the Week #32 (2018)

MoTW32

I can’t believe it, I’m losing to a rug

  • Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind (2018): I just don’t trust people who feel nothing when watching Robin Williams. The man put everything in his performances, he was so committed that it hurt to think about what was going on inside, especially knowing the drug use of his younger days. This HBO docu is a joyous elegy to the man, and although it doesn’t tread far into the unknown, it still manages to paint a comprehensive portrait the funny man. His death, now four years away, still feels raw – as raw as any movie stars dying can feel. The documentary comes to emphasize the age-old-adage: that the truest tragedy lies within comedy. 8/10

Should you choose to accept it

  • Mission Impossible: Fallout (2018): Every time I see Tom Cruise and it dawns upon me that he’s only a couple of years younger than my dad, a shiver goes down my spine. Somehow, Cruise went beyond his scientology blemishes and still manages to rock some of the most hardcore action characters Hollywood has to offer. His ‘all-in’ mentality translates well on film, and the broken ankle he suffered while filming MI:F is a testament to the guy’s dedication. The movie itself is ‘adrenaline fueled’ as the kids like to say nowadays, about as good as a pure action flick can get. The set-pieces are incredible, with director McQuarrie capturing it all with flair. Strong co-stars bring appeal and levity to the leg banging. 8/10

Hey! I quoted this in my book.

  • On Chesil Beach (2017): When you finally read one of the many books you aimed to read come new-year, and you then find out they’re making a movie based on it, watching it becomes a must. Even if you didn’t quite enjoy the book to begin with. On Chesil Beach is the tragic love-story of two unfortunate and inexperienced newly weds, who are as foreign to love and love-making as can be. But that’s how we it used to be done back in those days – settle for the first man/woman that you’re socially compatible with. Unfortunately, the whole affair is slow and fails to capture the raw disgust that Florence felt when faced with sexual intimacy. That’s a big thing, because it was the most redeeming aspect of the book. You’re left with some greater social construct considerations to contemplate, but it’s at the end of an anguishing movie. At least I came out of it knowing how to pronounce Saoirse Ronan’s name, so that’s something. 5/10

Oh, perfect father-daughter relationship starring Kristen Bell, where hast thou gone?

  • Like Father (2018): This less pretentious Netflix movie starring Kristen Bell and Kelsey Grammer banks on the appeal of its leads and cashes in. Somewhat. Bell plays a workaholic who ruins her own wedding and then reconnects with her estranged father on what should have been the honeymoon of anyone’s dreams. It’s not an ambitious feature, yet it plays well enough to be enjoyable in its major parts. Don’t expect any surprises, just a mild morality tale about the life you never had. 6/10

A harrowing ‘tradition’

  • Tower (2016): To be fair, I did make some acclaimed choices this week. Tower is a partly animated documentary that retells the tragic hours that marked the university of Texas in 1966, when a sniper killed sixteen people who were just minding their own business. I’m not sure if this was the first of the many mass shootings that occurred in the US, but it sure shaped the public frame of mind. The movie patches together and reenacts recollections of the day from survivors (mostly), and although it starts out slowly, by the end you’re going to feel that emotional punch. The whole situation is everything the US and Texas is about, as vigilante gunman encircled the tower to take down the shooter – Charles Whitman, a former UoT student. Interestingly, a tumor was found inside Whitman’s brain at the autopsy (spoiler alert – he dies), and it has been suggested this might have been a contributing factor to his violent impulses. Maybe a movie for another day, as this one made no concessions at all for the state of the shooter, focusing rather on the manner in which the bystanders reacted to this unimaginable situation. 8/10

Movies of the Weeks #30 #31 (2018)

I was out on a week with the guys, which generally leads to some dark experiences. We tried our luck with a bunch of horror movies and were mostly pleased by what we saw.

MotW30.png

Foreboding dominance

  • Revenge (2017): I’ve rarely seen an opening fifteen minutes as luscious as this. Shot with a lot of flair, at a great location and featuring a sensual lead, it set up the movie exceptionally well. Things get rough after this, before the movie asks of you to disconnect your brain and just take things as they come. Ultimately, the plot disappoints and the violence is borderline excessive, which is quite a shame. For a first film, however, this is not a bad effort from Coralie Fargeat. 7/10

Guess who’s coming to dinner

  • It Comes at Night (2017): Director Trey Shults impressed the awkwardness out of me with his previous movie, Krisha (2015). This one’s a different experience, as it looks at a post-apocalyptic world without telling us much about it. A highly contagious virus kills people, that’s all you need to know, because the gist of it is about how people treat each other when faced with their own survival. There are no good and bad guys, just two families trying to make the best out of a horrible situation. I would argue Shults doesn’t take things far enough to make a truly enticing movie, but the manner in which he defies convention and his attention to detail elevates It Comes at Night to a character drama. But no, it’s no horror movie and the title does it not favours. 7/10

Spanish Ouija

  • Verónica (2017): Another stylish horror for this crop – the closest to a horror movie of the lot – proves to be a let-down. I’m not a big fan of spiritualism and possession plots, which is part of the reason why I just couldn’t get behind Veronica. Add to that the fact that I don’t care much for young protagonists either, and it’s pretty clear my prejudices didn’t help at all in how I experienced the movie. It felt slow and uninspired, with the odd scare making an appearance – nothing like the kind of stuff you’d expect from the director of [REC]5/10

The zombie movie everyone has been craving for

  • Zombeavers (2014): If you love beavers and you want to be a zombie when you grow up, this is the right movie for you. A very camp, silly low-budget B-grade piece of filmmaking, Zombeavers proves to be a fun ride if you’ve got a group of like-minded connoisseurs around you. All you need is an appreciation for gore and nudity. Otherwise, it’s probably not something you should spend a lot of time on.  6/10

AKA a documentary on all things witchcraft in the 1630s

  • The VVitch: A New-England Folktale (2015): It’s funny how three of the six movies reviewed this week were by first-time directors. The VVitch was highly acclaimed on release and I would have to concur with the critics on this one. It’s not really a horror movie, as it is a historical movie embedded in folklore. Great acting and exceptional cinematography flesh out what is, essentially, a family drama. If you’ve ever wondered how one could have thought women were witches, you’ll get some meaty insight here, as the movie treads the line between the real and the supernatural. Pretty special, this. 8/10

Composite stories abound

  • Ghost Stories (2017): As opposed to The VVitch and Revenge, the directors behind Ghost Stories don’t have quite the same mature cinematic eye. Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman propose a plot-driven film, with Nyman playing the lead character, a Professor Goodman. A debunker of the supernatural, Goodman is faced with three cases that are said to be unsolvable. Whether you’ll like it or not depends on how much you care for Shyamalan-esque twists and turns. I didn’t really have fun with it, but it wasn’t a terrible story either. 6/10