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