Movies of the Weeks #11 #12 (2019)

True Love

  • Tangerine (2015): Hard to believe I’ve note written anything on this one, although I’ve seen it several times since its release. It’s unfortunate that it follows Tangerines (2013), while not quite predating the fruit either, which makes for a difficult find on Google. But Sean Baker’s masterpiece (yeah, I said it!) is well worth the find. The synopsis really says everything you need to know about the plot, while not giving anything away at all: “A hooker tears through Tinseltown on Christmas Eve searching for the pimp who broke her heart.” It’s a tremendous ride, full of highs and lows, great tempo, fresh characters, big laughs, small chuckles and, indeed, a lot of heart. A proper fairytale. 9/10

Deceit

  • Contratiempo (2016): For whatever reason, I thought this would be a good movie. Probably that ridiculous IMDb rating. In fact, it’s a moderately enjoyable, yet pretentiously silly drama about a stupid crime, inane characters and twists that are equally uninspired and unlikely. Wow, this movie really pissed me off, although I reckon I got more irritated while thinking about not, not while watching it. I might be in the minority here, but if you do want some similar twists executed way better, just watch the first Saw. Well…if you like a bit of extra-violence and gore with your twists. 5/10

There Was a Time

  • Stan & Ollie (2018): Behind its time, as the lack of awards glitter and box office appeal shows, the tale of Laurel and Hardy still works well, thanks to its strong co-leads: Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly. I recall watching my fair share of the comedic duo on TV when I was younger, but it seems their brand of physical humor has aged a lot in the last decades. The movie rarely deals with this disconnect, which is why it is limited to working well as a biopic and not much else. The relationship between Laurel and Hardy is endearing and, in this regard, director Jon Bird does them justice. Shame he doesn’t go beyond. 7/10

Once, twice, once again.

  • Happy Death Day 2U (2019): I might not have liked the original much, but the genre appeals to me, so watching the sequel was inevitable. HDD2 mixes things up in occasionally fun ways, while straying somewhat from the rinse and repeat format of the original, which makes for a better movie – for a while. The third act, with a tiring amount of twists and turns, left me with the same sense of disappointment as the original, which is why HDD2 doesn’t quite get my recommendation either. 5/10

The Verse Speaks to Us

  • Captain Marvel (2019): Skeptical, as always, when heading into a superhero adaptation, particularly a new one, I was pleasantly surprised by what Captain Marvel had to offer. With a strong leading duo (Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson), good side characters and antagonists, as well as some memorable moments and jokes, CM pulls off the unlikely and makes for a fun and refreshing venture into the Marvelverse. It’s not without flaws, particularly pacing-wise, and doesn’t aim particularly high with its story, but you just want to overlook these shortcomings. 7/10

Movies of the Week #10 (2019)

When ComRom Becomes RomCom

  • Isn’t It Romantic (2019): In this meta-romcom, Natalie’s life is quite average, when a bump on the head suddenly turns it into, you guessed it, a romcom! So imagine all the tropes being milked shamelessly in what is ultimately a mildly amusing affair, thanks to the talented cast and the occasional sample of wit. It doesn’t go far enough though to subvert the genre or be truly incisive, which is why IIR only goes beyond a passing grade. 6/10

Das Russian Boot

  • Kursk (2018): I somehow remember the news storm around the Kursk disaster rather well. I’m not sure why it struck me so at the time, when I was in my early teens, hearing about this nuclear sub and the age-old Russian reflexes in placing life second to intrigue and politics. A freshly minted Putin didn’t bother returning from holiday, while the submarine lay on the floor of the Barents Sea, seemingly so close, yet out of reach. The movie does little justice to the story, trying to stitch together a maudlin drama, with the odd interlude of one-dimensional politicking. Factually off in order to sustain a familiar narrative arc, the Kursk works while on the submarine, but is a total sinker outside of it. 5/10

Spider-pig, Spider-pig…

  • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018): Finally, a superhero movie winning an Oscar for something other than technical excellence! With an unexpected change of pace, the newest Spider-Man is surprisingly fun. In this take, a rift in the space-time continuum (or something) allows various Spider-Man characters to enter the same universe, where they have to both stop a villain from destroying the world (shocker), as well as induct a new Spider-Man to the job. Balanced just right, the movie shines through its creative visuals, which compensate for the blander moments of storytelling. Do watch, if you have even the slightest appreciation of the genre. 8/10

When Chocolate Labs Aren’t Enough For You

  • Pick of the Litter (2018): If you’re looking for a thoroughly endearing documentary with good odds for making you cry, then give PotL a try. It follows five pups which are being trained to become Guide Dogs for the Blind, an affair that’s harsher than you might expect. While not always compelling, the whole thing is a successful foray into a story I would never have come across otherwise. 7/10

Romeo, Juliet and All the Rest

  • If Beale Street Could Talk (2018): Odds are, you’ve seen this story many times, centering around the prejudice against African Americans in the modern United States. Beale Street tells it in a different light, an intimately romantic one of a middle class family forced to resort to all reasonable means available to it, in order to save the to-be-groom of their daughter from prison for a crime he did not commit. Director Barry Jenkins (of Moonlight fame) finds the sweet spot once more, in a tale of suffering and hopelessness, managing, somehow, to go beyond it all and find the human thread of hope. While the narrative isn’t without fault, the cinematic experience is pretty special, enough to warrant a strong recommendation, especially for those capable of coping with slow burners. 8/10

Movies of the Week #9 (2019)

LSD eats YOU

  • Climax (2018): You just know that Gaspar Noe is an acquired taste. One that I’ve not fully acquired. Climax is a drug-induced frenzy, turned into a cinematic frenzy, featuring some hypnotic dance sequences, that does all your Noe-esque expectations justice. That being said, I perhaps lacked the proper viewing environment to become fully engulfed by the whole thing, which is why my enjoyment stopped short of actual fascination. Still something to see, if you don’t particularly mind a lot of sex and violence. 7/10

Hey, Ho, Captain Dick

  • Vice (2018): In this poster child for a director’s reach exceeding his graps, Adam McKay plays around too much for his, and the movie’s own good. Chrstian Bale and the solid cast will carry it for you, but there’s interestingly little that I did not know about Dick Cheney which is first portrayed here. While the overall result is both entertaining and scary, the more inspired moments of filmmaking are generally brought down by the lack of stylistic coherence – a consequence of trying to be too witty and irreverent. 7/10

Three To Go, Please

  • Instant Family (2018): It usually amuses me, when a light comedy ends up getting rated similarly to more ambitious works of film, like the two just described. Alas, when things just click in comedy-land, everything seems simple. Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne rock the pants off their ‘are we really good enough to be parents’ roles, which is why everything digests so easily. Parts of it feel rushed though and the children could have done with more screen time, which is why IF is not the movie of the week. It is, however, your ‘most likely to be watched’ of this particular list. 7/10

Truly Free

  • Free Solo (2018): Keeping in touch with the award winners, I was both impressed and underwhelmed by Free Solo. It’s a sturdy documentary about something that’s hard to really catch on film, yet somehow the director duo of Chin and Vasarhelyi manage to do it justice. Alex Honnold, our free climbing protagonist, is a quaintly socially awkward guy, whose story, I guess, inspires. What stuck to me was a statement that Honnold makes early on, about the whole affair being low risk/high consequence, and the manner in which he conducts himself somehow underlines that. So much in life is about framing and aiming. The part about me being underwhelmed has more to do with me adoring the non-nominated Won’t You Be My Neighbour, a more mischievous and enrapturing documentary for my tastes. Alas, I’ve never been the mountain climbing type, so we shouldn’t hold that against Honnold. 8/10

When Going Undercover Isn’t Hardcore Enough

  • A Private War (2018): I am completely oblivious about the media, barring whatever I come across in movies. That being said, this is not your usual media newsroom movie, although it has bits of that. It captures part of the story of Marie Colvin, a celebrated war correspondent who – not completely unlike the protagonit of Free Solo – is fearless in doing something that no normal person would even consider. There is more at stake here, which is not to say that this imbues the story with more purpose – I’m all for self-actualization above saving the world. Colvin is a dry and gritty character, haunted by what she’s seen, almost helpless in pursuing this path that her life has put her on. Some criticized Rosamund Pike’s portrayal for being too one-note, but I find it’s a strong effort because you need to capture this drive that ends up making less of a person out of you. It’s what happens with most people who are consumed by their work. So in spite of some weakness in the narrative, I found myself captivated by APW. 8/10