Movies of the Week #30 (2019)

Saving Mr. Banks (2013): A rare success story for the “movie about the movie” genre, SMB proves insightful, amusing and terribly emotional – sometimes to a fault. You probably know by now that I am strongly attached to Mary Poppins, which is why my liking of SMB should come as not so much of a surprise. The story highlights what I’ve always felt Mary Poppins was really about and takes full advantage of its phenomenal cast, with Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks at their delightful bests, alongside a bunch of very talented co-stars. The movie is not very ambitious, in that it streamlines reality to fit the Disney template, yet it manages to not only muster sentiment, but to also tell a proper tale. I cried, of course, but I always do that with the Poppins. 8/10

Alita: Battle Angel (2019): As with Ghost in the Shell, it proves elusive for Hollywood to get this whole cyber-humans concept right. Alita is definitely a well-oiled movie, with a strong overall look and some well choreographed fights, but it damn well feels like there’s not much of a ghost in its shell. To its credit, it manages to weave several plots together with coherence, so it’s a shame that it doesn’t treat its characters with as much care. Then again, director Robert Rodriguez has always been known for his cinematic flair, whereas the writing duo of James Cameron (!) and Laeta Kalogridis (Alexander, Terminator Genesys, Shutter Island) failed to bestow some much needed freshness to the movie. Functional, but not impressive. 6/10

Crawl (2019): I was looking forward to Alejandro Aja’s latest and, I’m glad to say, it fits the bill. A natural disaster/creature feature, the movie has a simple premise – during a hurricane, a daughter goes looking for her father, who, it turns out, is cornered in a basement by…alligators. Strong effects, decent acting and a healthy amount of tension make up for the less than imaginative narrative, even if, on the whole, the movie could have been more fierce and more imaginative. 6/10

The Shallows (2016): I had seen the movie on release, but per chance came across it on TV and made my family sit through it. Yum. It’s a good buddy feature to Crawl, even if I thought the pacing, set-pieces and Blake Lively’s performance made for an overall superior experience. Synopsis: surfer dudess gets caught in shark infested water and contemplates survival on a wet patch of stone. What worked really well for me was the sense that relief seems so close (the shore is right there, all the time), yet stays out of reach. Like, you know, in day to day life. Some proper chomps and a nice send-off make for an enjoyable ride. 7/10

Plus One (2019): As always, the key to good love on screen is choosing a duo with excellent chemistry to go down a familiar rom-com route, hence the plot: two friends tag-team their summer wedding season, which brings them together in ways they never imagined (lol). Maya Erskine and Jack Quaid work really well together and their chemistry is helped by the solid dialogue they share. For all the good work it does and good feeling it generates, a weak subplot involving one of the lead’s father getting remarried and a perfectly lame and predictable meltdown towards the end almost ruin a movie that does a lot of things right in capturing a piece of romance. Thankfully, I have a lot of goodwill. 7/10

Movies of the Weeks #27 #28 #29

Giant Little Ones (2018): In spite of treading familiar territory in terms of story and characters, the way in which director Keith Behrman conjures moods through colors and pacing is top-notch. The story of Franky, played by a young Jesse Eisenberg kind of fellow, and the falling out with his best friend edges towards the unlikely at times, but it is held together by the ephemeral melancholy that only the better coming-of-age movies have. Everyone seems to be in a different place on the sexual spectrum here, which makes certain scenes feel like a stretch, e.g. almost anything with the queer side-kick Mouse – a strange choice for a movie that works well with subtlety. That being said, it wasn’t a bad ride at all. 7/10

After Hours (1985): If you’re up for a trippy Scorsese movie that doesn’t really feel like a Scorsese movie, then this is something for you. In a story that pretty much sums up my expectations of what would happen if I ever left the house after 23.00, a humble word processor gets into the mess of his life when trying to hook up with a mysterious woman he meets at a coffee store. It’s all unlikely, sometimes ridiculous, often head-scratching, yet in the end everything finds a way to fall into place and make sense. Do try it out for taste. 8/10

Long Shot (2019): An old-school, perfectly amusing, not overly ambitious comedy, starring my erstwhile beloved, Charlize Theron (went for Sean Penn instead of me, how could she!), and the self-deprecating Seth Rogen, Long Shot is a movie about…friendship? I guess. Or a woman becoming US president, although that never comes across as being anything but a vehicle for quippy one-liners and solid situational comedy. The leads do a great job in carrying this, although I did appreciate June Raphael’s contribution to a couple of really entertaining scenes. So yeah, good for a laugh or two. 7/10

Yesterday (2019): It’s hard to believe a movie directed by Danny Boyle and written by Richard Curtis can fail so hard. Alas, Yesterday proved a huge disappointment. Which is even more of a shame, if you consider the potential behind its concept: what if The Beatles never existed and you were the only one in a position to recreate their music? You could wonder about the ethics of it, which is the only thing this movie really does. But you could also question whether it would be just as successful, how it would all look and feel if launched in the modern world. There’s too little of that in Yesterday, which also fails because the leading duo has no chemistry and there’s very little joy to the whole affair, just a lot of moral anxiety. Boo. One of the few upsides is that Kate McKinnon was awesome, so that’s that. 5/10

Las Herederas (2018): This is probably the first Paraguayan movie I’ve ever seen and that makes for a very strong start. People rarely talk about the idea of someone being a prisoner to their inheritance, but that is exactly what The Heiresses manages to capture, a story which uses strong contrast subplots of sexual desire and emotional fulfillment to create something quite special. Sure, it meanders some, but to good effect, in establishing the lead’s desire to break free of expectations, wealth, debt and everything in between. The fact that said lead, Ana Brun, is at her first screen credit, makes Marcelo Martinessi’s movie even more of a stand-out. Do watch. 8/10

Movies of the Weeks #25 #26 (2019)

This is Where I Leave You (2016): Star-studded family reunions rarely work well and, unfortunately, neither does TiWILY. Lead by Jason Bateman, Tina Fey and Adam Driver, the movie tries to create the familiar tension of reunions, with secrets unfolding and comatose passions reigniting. At times, it does a decent job, with some of the subplots proving worthwhile diversions. However, it rarely feels fresh, which is why my recommendation comes with an asterisk. 6/10

Dick (1999): I thought little of Dick as it started unfolding – another run of the mill spoof that feels too much of a caricature to really be enjoyable. But as the movie went on, its quirkiness became endearing, and it left me with the feeling that everyone was having a lot of fun with it – no clue if that’s factual, not that it matters. Michelle Williams and Kirsten Dunst are pretty amazing in roles that could easily have played out as I initially thought they would. So even if you’re not familiar with the topic of Nixon/Watergate, this re-envisioning of events can prove more fun than you think. 7/10

The Mustang (2019): A poor man’s The Rider, The Mustang is still a solid movie, starring Matthias Schoenaerts and Bruce Dern. It’s partly a tale about the fate of wild mustangs, partly a tale o redemption, with an angry, imprisoned man who finds an unexpected outlet in breaking said mustangs – a rather unimaginative allegory. However, Schoenaerts’s and Dern’s energy, alongside some visually striking scenes, make up for the film’s weak script and if we consider this is the first feature by director/writer Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre, then there are reasons to keep the faith. 7/10

Shazam (2019): Not quite sure what I expected of Shazam, one of the more appreciated DC movie adaptations. As far as origin stories go, this isn’t a bad one, with bad-boy-foster-boy Billy Batson appropriately grunge for his age. It’s a tame effort overall though, with some decent touches to make it likable, but the stakes rarely appear high enough to matter. The movie feels distinctly PG, even if it doesn’t always look it, targeted at a teenage demographic, with little to offer to the more pretentious viewer like myself. 6/10

Child’s Play (2019): I couldn’t say whether I ever saw the original from beginning to end. In my mind, it’s a gruesome affair, less campy than this re-envisioned, modernistic take. That being said, this new Child’s Play tries to be a cautionary tale about IOT (haha), which makes it a seem ridiculous at times. Rarely does the movie find a voice and tone, with some scenes juvenile and silly, whereas others are brutally violent. At no time, though, was it really scary, which is a shame. I did like bits of it, but it’s a missed opportunity overall. 6/10