Movies of the Week #24 (2021)

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Bo Bunrham: Inside (2021): This month’s top performance on Netflix is Bo Burnham’s one-man-show created during the pandemic. I am inherently skeptical of social media stars turned mainstream, but Burnham is pretty close to swaying me – which, I’m certain, offers him the peace of mind he’s been missing during lockdown. Instantly relatable, brimming with catchy, amusing and incisive musical numbers, cleverly shot and assembled in a small room, over months and months of existentially-laden-work, Inside is, indeed, a standout. A standout of “what” is something you’ll have to decide upon on your own, but it expresses so much of what people have gone through in the last twelve months and somehow still generates a positive, uplifting vibe – in spite of it all. 8

Babardeala cu bucluc sau porno balamuc (2021): It’s unexpected (for me) that this is the first Radu Jude movie I’ve seen – probably not the best to start with, but still an experience. Thankfully, I was alone with my girlfriend at the cinema when the movie hit it off with a five minute hardcore porn scene. Not that I had not seen porn before, but it’s rare to be confronted with it so bluntly in a public space. The movie then unwinds for a while, following poor Emilia, teacher and said porn film’s protagonist, an incompatibility that becomes problematic once the clip makes it onto the interweb. We’re introduced to the mess that is Bucharest, a contrasting eyesore of decadence and historical landmarks, with the equivalent social layer to go with the architecture. Although often pertinent and certainly unusual, I found the movie to be too anecdotal for its own good, which makes it carry less heft than it otherwise could have. 7

Scare Me (2020): Scary stories in a mountain cabin epitomize cliches about scary stories. But it seems like this mundane setting can also unleash some very meta riffs, like Black Bear, The Cabin in the Woods (2011) – or this! To be fair, Scare Me is strong not so much because of the concept, but thanks to the execution. Josh Ruben puts on the director-writer-actor hat for this and generates some captivating energy with co-stars Aya Cash and Chris Redd. I was perfectly entertained for the most part, but did not enjoy the blunt, humorless conclusion. Still, way better than the rating it carries on IMDb right now. 7

Boss Level (2021): The time-loop mechanic has become very popular in recent years and here it’s applied to the ‘perfect’ subject matter – a trial and error progression towards a final boss fight. Frank Grillo is absolutely ripped and entertaining to watch in a performance that’s more one-man-show than not. Mel Gibson and Naomi Watts make appearances as well, but characters are secondary to the movie’s driving force – mayhem. Unfortunately, this is no Edge of Tomorrow, the stakes are too low and it’s hard to care enough for the generic characters – which, in turn, makes the action sequences feel rote. Still, the cute gaming nods, the tongue in cheek tropes, provide some sense of irony, so it should well satisfy genre enthusiasts. 6

Hotel Artemis (2018): A movie that feels like it should rock – given its star power and John Wick-ian hotel setup – proves to be a very middle of the road affair. Jodie Foster, Sterling K. Brown, Sofia Boutella, Jeff Goldblum, Zachary Quinto, Dave Bautista, Charlie Day – to name a few – are mostly given very little to work with. At just 94 minutes, there isn’t enough time for writer-director Drew Pearce to make us care about this bunch of underworld misfits and the movie doesn’t have enough razzamatazz to afford no emotional pay-off. That being said, I’m probably being overly harsh here, but you have to draw a line in the imaginary sand every once in a while. 5