Movies of the Week #2 (2021)

Minari (2020): We’re getting close to awards season, Minari being one of this year’s contenders – and definitely a movie I relished. Looking at familiar tales of family and patriarchal pride, it tells the story of “a Korean family moving to Arkansas to start a farm in the 1980s” (via IMDb). The slow, deliberate pacing, the vibrant cinematography and, foremost, the delicate dynamics of its leading characters make for a heart-tugging web of hopeful sacrifices that you’re just bound to get stuck on. Particularly today, the tale of the American dream feels distinctly phantasmagorical, which adds an undiscernible layer to Lee Isaac Chung’s movie that makes it stand out even more than it otherwise would. 9/10

Promising Young Woman (2020): Take the plot of Veronica Mars (just as the movie picked up alumns Chris Lowell and Max Greenfield) and paint in a bit of Harley Quinn and you’ve got yourself a promising young woman. Led by Carey Mulligan’s impressive performance, peppered by a bit of visual flair and solid musical moments, Emerald Fennell’s movie just about justifies its praise. You will need to ignore the phoned-in-plot, with twists that lack any bite, and appreciate the protagonist’s darkness. Thankfully, a strong, uncompromising finale ensures PYW leaves a mark, which is more than you can say about most movies. 7/10

Synchronic (2019): A gritty social sci-fi, about two paramedics, bizarre deaths, designer drugs and time travel, Synchronic has an intriguing concept, but a less than exhilarating execution. A lot of stuff is happening in Synchronic’s story, which doesn’t always benefit the characters or the experience, in a constant struggle between exploring the concept a wrapping some narrative around it. That’s not to say that the Anthony Mackie/Jamie Dornan movie isn’t interesting, it’s just that it doesn’t take the premise far enough and is often too explicit for its own good. Still a good watch, especially for genre enthusiasts. 6/10

Ocean’s 8 (2018): I had sub-zero expectations heading into this female version of a series that never really impressed me. Thankfully, coming in low made it easier to enjoy the shindig, thanks to some nifty performances from its talented and charming cast. But as far as the plot goes, it definitely feels like a simple rehash with different faces, which might have been interesting if the previous movies weren’t as fresh as they are in memory. So it’s a genre movie, a specific one at that, which might just work as a popcorn filler for a lonesome Friday eve. 6/10

Vampires in the Bronx (2020): Taking the Stranger Things recipe and applying it to a tale of gentrification set in the Bronx, this Netflix production is as heavy handed as can be. If the entry-level symbolism isn’t enough (there’s a Murnau company with Vlad Tepes as their logo, there’s a kid reading Salem’s Lot), you’ve got yourselves a bunch of white vampires looking to occupy the Bronx, a place where, we are informed repeatedly, that missing people don’t draw much attention. While reasonably well executed, VitB is as campy as they come, which undermines its cleverer moments. And, for the life of me, I found the fate of the young teenage protagonists to be…scarily uninteresting. I guess the movie got to me subliminally. 5/10