Movies of the Weeks #34 #35 (2019)

The Sword of Trust (2019): There’s a lot going for this kooky little comedy – an eccentric plot, characters heavy on the quirks, biting dialogue and an absolutely spot-on cast. It all makes for a thoroughly amusing minor cinematic entry. The gist: Cynthia and Mary need to handle Cynthia’s inheritance from her recently deceased grandfather, an antique sword…that supposedly proves the South won the Civil War. So they head over to Mel’s pawn shop and, as it so happens, they stumble across a group of firm believers that think, indeed, the South did win the war. It’s as absurd as flat-earthers and vaccine-deniers, but you know they exist, so…yeah, give it a go, odds are it will surprise you. 7/10

Pet Sematary (2019): I guess you can call me a Stephen King fan, even if I haven’t read a King book in years. But it was his books that got me started into anything resembling literature, before the likes of Harry Potter took over my teenage years. Pet Sematary is still on my (endless) to-read list, but I did give the movie a go. In the pantheon of SK cinematic adaptations, this one is quite middle of the road – it gave me some definite chills, but never really captured the grizzly tragedy that it portrays. The gist: a family’s cat dies and the friendly neighbour shows the pater familias a way to revive said cat. Spoiler alert: it wasn’t a good idea. If the movie had gotten this bit about the desire for a second chance better, maybe it would have stood an improved chance at succeeding. Or if it had spent more time in fleshing out the relationship between its characters. Alas, it keeps things simple, which is mostly fine, but rarely memorable. 6/10

I Am Mother (2019): After a promising start, I Am Mother still has a few tricks up its sleave, but never really brings the heat. In a post-apocalyptic world, a robot designed to repopulate humanity rears and educates a young girl. The nature of the apocalypse is left ambiguous, which is fine, even if the later twists and turns are only moderately convincing. There are several underlying themes to IAM, conceptually interesting, that somehow feel like they’ve been trimmed of their complexity. This sanitized feel is equaled by the movie’s sanitized look, as well as some less than convincing effects in the later stages. So while it may leave you pondering some bigger questions, IAM fails in its nuances to bring forth a wholly believable and engaging tale. 6/10

Confessions (2010): The Japanese cult classic is definitely a memorable movie, even if it stretches belief at many turns. It’s a story of revenge, of our darkest impulses and the raw selfishness of the “unformed” adult, that does a lot visually to create a specific and enthralling mood. However, it’s also a movie of excesses, both narrative and stylistic, which end up doing the whole a disservice – even if they can be tolerated. What worked really well was this sense it conveyed of being set in the present, yet concomitantly showing a vision of the future, a strong paradox to work with, which helps in mediating its lack of maturity. Definitely not something for the squeamish, but, in the very least, memorable. 7/10

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (2019): Everyone and their creepy uncle is excited about Tarantino’s latest, a semi-historical romp in the golden age of Hollywood. With his usual flair and slow-building character sequences, Tarantino puts together another solid entry, potentially even a top-three contender – clearly behind the unattainable heights of Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction. With Rick Dalton and Cliff Booth, an era of the glorified man-actor-creature is ridiculed and eulogized at the same time and it feels just about right, for the most part. The odd sequences does straddle the line of being completely derivative, but in its imaginative narrative composition, Tarantino offers something just that little bit different. With its star studded cast (so strong is the man’s halo, established actors will come in to play extras) and an over-the-top-finale, Once Upon a Time might only be the third best Once Upon a Time (after “in the West” and “in America”), but it’s a delicious dish regardless. 8/10

Movies of the Week #31 #32 (2019)

Bumblebee (2018): After the experience of Shazam, I was cautious in approaching BB, a movie that gave a similar vibe. Sadly, it felt painfully PG-13, with a tired story and equally tired characters. Hailee Steinfeld is usually awesome and she does her part in making the whole thing bearable, but were it not for an excellent soundtrack, I’d be loathe to give it a passing grade. This is coming from someone who actually rated the first Transformers a solid six. Not much else to add, the movie just rubbed me the wrong way. 5/10

Skyscraper (2018): A good companion piece to Bumblebee, in all the wrong ways, Dwayne Johnson can’t save this lackluster blockbuster with strong Die Hard vibes from sucking. In spite of the odd impressive effects piece and some decent stunts, the movie has no spirit and, what’s even worse, is not as fun as this low-frills ride should be. Boo. 4/10

Kraftidioten (2014): A movie dipped into the Fargo jar, Kraftidioten aka In Order of Disappearance is a fun tale of revenge. Starring Stellan Skarsgard and Bruno Ganz, with both seemingly enjoying their roles, it tells the story of a bereaved father, whose son is killed after getting involved in a drug ring. In its triangle of death, the movie doesn’t take itself too seriously, but do so in an intelligent way – not unlike In Bruges, whose influence is also palpable here. 7/10

The Souvenir (2019): If you’re up for an introspective piece of filmmaking, look no more. Joanna Hogg’s souvenir is a bittersweet story of first love, more bitter than sweet, as artistically inclined Julie meets bohemian bonhomme Anthony. Set in the glorious 80s, the movie does a phenomenal job in framing its story and its characters, which allows J&A to burn low, yet stay compelling at all times, with an unexplainable magnetism. It’s an endearing, frustrating, infuriating, despondent ride that deserves a quiet two hours as its tribute. 8/10

Photograph (2019): This low-burning and mostly tame Indian rom-com comes from the director of the more accomplished Lunchbox (2013). It’s a familiar tale of marriage pressures within Indian society, affecting two characters of different generations – a 40 something photographer and a 20ish student. There’s nothing glamorous about earning your living by taking random pictures of people around touristic landmarks, while flat-sharing with five guys in your forties, but Rafi just about captures Miloni’s essence in a picture he takes of her. It starts out as a farce, with Rafi using her likeness to convince his grandmother that he’s set romantically, but once the two actually come together, they…belong? I guess. It’s an understated love story, with a focus on care and appreciation, rather than romantic passion, so it may or may not rub you the right way. For me, it felt just a tad too safe, although I totally got behind the final romantic gesture. Yum. 6/10