Movies of the Week #11 (2020)

The Lost City of Z (2016): What better way to spend social isolation, than to watch a lush jungle adventure with Charlie Hunnam? The movie had been on my watchlist a long time before I realized it was the work of director James Gray (who recently helmed Ad Astra). It then suddenly became important to catch up. If anything, Ad Astra has a lot going for it in terms of pure cinematic quality, which is what The Lost City also has to show. The strong acting performances of its leads (Hunnam, Pattinson, Sienna Miller) iron over some of the harsher notes of the story, and its jarring timeline leaps. Other than that, it’s a transporting movie about real ambition, father-son bonding and the dreaded splendor of exploration. Not unlike Ad Astra, but more historically sprawling in mostly interesting ways. 8/10

Little Joe (2019): This quirky little genre piece is labelled as a horror movie, but I would hardly lump it in that category. It’s rather a sci-fi with heavy allegorical dashes, which are spread with enough flair for you to forget that they could mean anything or nothing at all. Alice, a plant breeder, creates this genetically enhanced plant that you need to talk to and care for, and you get rewarded with a pump of oxytocin to your brain. Happiness. This might all have something to do with the fact that she faces the turmoil of adolescent years with her son at home, or maybe, as things go awry, it might have something to do with the pieces of self some are willing to sacrifice in order to attain a state of…mental liberation. Whatever it speaks about to you, Jessica Hausner’s movie transcends its more predictable moments, to create, at the very least, a subject of conversation. 7/10

Big Time Adolescence (2019): In an unusually somber buddy comedy, young Monroe is close to walking into the footsteps of his sister’s ex-boyfriend Zeke, currently Mo’s bff – much to everyone’s dread. But Zeke isn’t just the alcohol infused, drug riddled, zero prospects twenty something, serial-cheater, he’s actually got redeeming qualities. And Mo isn’t just a cautionary tale with a happy ending, his fate proves more true to life than you’d think. The movie doesn’t break new ground and it’s neither satisfying, nor fleshed out enough to be truly memorable, but it picks its guns well and sticks to them. Kudos for that. 7/10

Taylor Tomlinson: Quarter-Life Crisis (2020): Netflix aggressively pushing stand-ups finally pays off, with this inspired performance from Taylor Tomlinson. The 25-year old (I guess?) gives a lashing to modern day romance, the struggles of the average quarter-lifer and her parents. Growing up in a devoutly Christian family was always going to provide good material and Tomlinson doesn’t shy away from the subject, while emphasizing that she doesn’t fault her parents for it. That’s quite refershing in itself. Not all jokes will have you in stitches, but I literally lol-ed a couple of times, while smiling amiably most of the time. In times of crisis, a good laugh is always welcome. 7/10

Papi Chulo (2018): Talking of laughs, there none to be had here. Matt Bomer stars as a weatherman facing some sort of existential drama involving an apparent break-up (as well as an on-air breakdown). To remove the dark memory left by a paint-less stain on the terrace of his sumptuous home, he ventures out to hire a Latino day-worker for the job, only to forcibly befriend him in order to fill his own emotional void. When the movie isn’t outright tactless, it’s simply not funny (nor somehow emotionally resonant), which makes for dire watching. So don’t. 4/10