Movies of the Week #38 #39 (2020)

Challenger: The Final Flight (2020): I’ve always had an interest for the game of…space and tell and vividly recall the Columbia disaster in 2003. Challenger was the perfect storm 17 years before, a tragic tale of hubris and the institutional complexities that so often undermine us. Steven Leckart and Glen Zipper have created a thoroughly engaging exploration of those hectic times for the Space Shuttle Program, which unveils a lot of the intricacies that led to Challenger failing. Unfortunately the docu isn’t always harmonious in jogging between the technicalities of why things went South and the human interest story about the crew of the shuttle. A trimmer, slightly shorter movie (as opposed to the four-episode Netflix format) could have been even better, but The Final Flight still captures something ephemeral – men with power in the twilight of their lives looking back upon the decisions they have made. It’s all pretty awesome, just falling a bit short on excellence. 8/10

Military Wives (2019): If you’re looking for a feel-good movie, look no more – Military Wives ticks all the boxes. Peter Cattaneo’s movies shines thanks to its ample heart and the fine performances by Sharon Horgan and the indelible Kristin Scott Thomas. The two star opposite one another in a classic “bake-off” scenario, in this case, who is better at organizing the military wives while the men are off fighting some god-forsaken war. Also, about singing, not baking. Unsurprisingly, this is a true story, which contends with offering a glimpse of an insight into the lives of the women constrained on military bases for, I guess, their country – and not much more. It feels somewhat unfair to rate it higher than Tenet, but it is definitely easier to enjoy and more down to earth and relatable. 7/10

Tenet (2020): Christopher Nolan’s latest has been dangled in front of our noses for many months now, repeatedly postponed due to the Coronavirus crisis. It…was not worth the wait. Technically the movie is absolutely impressive and its internal mind-bending logic is unusual, to say the least. However, there were very few moments where I was enthralled and even fewer where I actually cared enough to try to disentangle the mess that was unfolding on the screen. That’s the thing, it’s not enough to create a movie that challenges the viewer, when the challenge is foremost an artifice to elevate a mundane story. The nice bows Nolan uses to wrap it all up diminishes the reward for those strong enough to make sense of the thing beforehand, which all probably makes Tenet Nolan’s worst film, which probably still counts as something special for most other directors. It’s a shame, because some of the commentary that movie makes and the manner in which it approaches certain themes are both relevant and interesting. 6/10

Dating Amber (2020): This small Irish high-school dramedy is a good example of a remarkable movie that suffers from a painfully predictable plot. Dating Amber tells the story of Eddie and Amber, who struggle to accept their sexual preferences and pretend to date in order to avoid the bullying brigade. David Freyne’s movie shines thanks to the performances of its leads (Fionn O’Shea and Lola Petticrew) and in portraying Eddie’s (in)ability to come to terms with who he is. Unfortunately, it holds no surprises and makes it hard to warrant the viewer’s full attention throughout much of its runtime. 6/10

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (2016): Not even Tom Cruise’s intensity can save Never Go Back from being a generic action romp. Edward Zwick is, at least nowadays, no Christopher McQuarrie, the latter having directed the first Jack Reacher, Robert Knepper is no Werner Herzog, Cobie Smulders no Rosamund Pike and the list goes on. NGB is just inferior in all ways to the first part and it doesn’t help at all that Cruise and Smulders really don’t have any chemistry at all going – no that Reacher ever was a guy for chemistry. Ultimately, it’s just a big, old bore, after a somewhat interesting first half hour, which one and half hours short of this thing’s runtime. The odd fight will fill the time, but why not just enjoy one of my favourite scenes from the first one instead? 5/10