Movies of the Week #42 (2019)

Joker (2019): This will not be a popular opinion, but I thought that Todd Phillips’s Joker was, for the most part, a cliched, bombastic, pretentious and tired piece of film-making that’s bleak to fault. While it is a different, more engrossing and single-focused origin story thanks to Joaquin Phoenix’s performance, I found myself rarely engaged and never excited. In the same way that ultra-violent movies are accused of being torture porn, this is its own brand of torture porn, with the sadistic world Arthur Fleck inhabits. Of course, Gotham has always been dark, but that’s why you’ve got Batman, because you need contrast. The complete lack thereof, some predictable twists, the second rate philosophy ramblings, all limited my ability to emote over what was going on. As far as I can tell, everything the movie put forth – narrative, visuals, themes – has already been done before and better. And slow-mo as the main means of atmosphere building is cheap.
The one thing it’s got going beyond Phoenix, is the sheer visceral quality of some of its scenes. And as a side-note to Phoenix’s character, I found the depiction of mental illness to be well on point regarding the effects of poverty on treatment and care options, but so extreme that it became caricatured, with the potential of further stigmatizing against those who suffer of it.
I guess that’s a long short review for a movie I didn’t like, but when you piss against the wind, you gotta expect the wind to piss back at you.That being said, yes, Joker was a disappointment and that always counts for something when rating. It’s also why I give it the same rating as Zombeavers because, hey, Zombeavers knew what it was and made no false promises. 6/10

Little Monsters (2019): If there ever was an antidote to Joker, this could very well be it. In the saturated world of zombie movies, Little Monsters provides a somewhat new, somewhat diverting and totally endearing take on the genre – a bit of Shaun of the Dead, but with children. It’s all very on the nose and one could argue it could have had more bite to it, be more irreverent, or even be funnier (can’t say McGiggles did it for me), but I just came away from it with a feeling of satisfaction and a stupid smile plastered on my face. And yes, Lupita Nyong’o is amazing, as usual. 7/10

Fatal Attraction (1987): The 80s and 90s were a great time for sex-themed movies. The naughties, innit? Like real naughties, not fifty shades of naughties – Body Double, Basic Instinct, Body Heat (see ap attern there?), all culminating and kinda ending with Eyes Wide Shut. They were also two really good decades for Michael Douglas, but in Fatal Attraction it’s Glenn Close who does most of the heavy lifting (don’t shed a tear for Douglas, he did win an Oscar that year for Wall Street). The ‘crazy female’ template has its sexist qualities, but the movie is a fun/fine ride, until the less than imaginative finale. There’s probably a nostalgia factor to it as well for viewers of a certain age, which makes it that little bit more pleasurable. 7/10

Câini (2016): A lauded Romanian No Country for Old Men (as it was labelled/self-labelled), Câini aka Dogs is a great movie to look at that’s in rather short supply of fascinating characters. Which, of course, means that it differs from NCfOM in a key way and it’s the reason for Bogdan Mirica’s movie feeling flat at times. Story in short: city dude inherits his criminally-inclined father’s estate in the countryside and gets tangled in more than he can handle. It’s not the most gripping of stories, but it’s beautifully shot and has an atmosphere akin to the Coen brothers masterpiece, which proves just about enough. 7/10

Wild Rose (2018): Half Mike Leigh, half Richard Curtis, half John Carney (hah, see what I did there?), this lass-wannabe-country-singer story felt truly endearing by the end. Featuring Chernobyl’s (and Beast’s) Jessie Buckley, it takes a bit of warming up to, because our lead, Rose-Lynn, is a morally bankrupt mother of two, with a total disregard for her responsibilities. But it’s not hard to feel for her, because she’s not the first, nor the last one to be a very young mother, whose dreams are in stark contrast with what her priorities should be. Heck, the question of how we should reconcile parenthood with a career is one of the biggest questions of our current society. With me being a bit of a country music fan (four seasons of Nashville, I must be a fan, right?), it all came together quite nicely as an exploration of our humanity, even in spite of its super-mushy ending. 8/10

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Movies of the Week #40 #41 (2019)

Hail Satan ? (2018): To get things straight right out of the gate – this is most likely not the movie you think it is. You won’t get a bunch of people playing dress up and hailing an ungodly demon. Instead, HS proposes a debate about the role of anti-establishment movements (i.e. The Satanic Temple) and the importance of civilized and fair challenges to the status quo. Sure, it’s bombastic at times, while at other times you wonder if it’s not just all an elaborate prank, but it doesn’t even really matter, in the same way it doesn’t matter whether Borat is real. Because the world he/they choose to inhabit reacts with authenticity – and that’s a world in which “nontheistic religions” are a thing. How can that not be fascinating? 8/10

Anna (2019): The days of Luc Besson being relevant seem to be behind us. In Anna, a cliched action-spy-thriller, bogged down by timeline yo-yo-ing, there are few things worth remembering. Model-turned-actress Sasha Luss leads some proper actors (Cillian Murphy and Helen Mirren, to name the more notable ones), but isn’t the most convincing lead. Heck, I didn’t much like Atomic Blonde, and that one starred Charlize Theron, so it’s no surprise Anna didn’t grow on me. So unless this is your genre, stay away. 4/10

Beast (2017): Director Michael Pearce picked up a BAFTA on his debut picture – this one. Starting from a simple premise (shy, innocent, girl falls for dangerous man), it paints a beautiful role-reversal by slowly revealing the true nature of its characters. Unlike how a Korean movie might go about this, i.e. swashbucklingly, Beast is subtle and restrained for the most part. The experience is lessened by a lack of urgency in critical moments and the over-the-top ending Pearce goes for, but movie has merit. 7/10

Despre oameni și melci (2012): In a Romanian interpretation of The Full Monty, Of Snails and Men proposes an all-together familiar story: state-owned factory run by corrupt management is taken over by private investors and thousands of people lose their jobs. Said people try to work out a way to do something about it and come across a sperm donation scheme, paying 50 USD per scoop of semen. It doesn’t quite all come together, because, really, who wants to artificially inseminate the sperm of some factory worker with no higher education? In spite of the potential for powerful social commentary, Tudor Giurgiu’s movie feels slight and lacks both focus and subtlety. What it does do well, is capture “the times” and some of the people, but without creating truly interesting characters. Shame, really. 6/10

Tall Girl (2019): A Netflix production that’s about as bland and uninteresting as they come, while also going against rule nr. 1 of rom-coms – we need to root for the couple! In this tragic tale of a (gorgeous) tall girl being shunned in school for being different, we are supposed to believe that the sheer goodness of a geeky, friend-zoned dork wins the day and the girl. I’ll admit that there are times where it just looks like there might be more to this movie, a few scenes that click or a relevant piece of social commentary, but they fade into a puddle of boring irrelevance due to the unagreeable story put forth. The appalling ending was just too much to bear in the end, which is why I really can’t recommend TG. 4/10

Movies of the Week #38 #39 (2019)

Wonder Boys (2000): Back in the days when Curtis Hanson did his better movies (and was still alive), I had the pleasure of watching Wonder Boys. With an excellent cast, starring Michael Douglas, Tobey Maguire when he was fashionable, Robert Downey Jr. when he wasn’t as fashionable, Frances McDormand who’s amazing as usual and Katie Holmes who was just about starting to get a movie career going (Dawson’s Creek FTW), it tells the story of a miserable writer-professor who just can’t get his second book going. Or ending. The movie features some kooky characters who are really just finding themselves and they’re endearing to look at, but there’s a reason why there’s a boys in the title: female characters don’t get much to do. You can take the man out of the boy but you can’t take the boy out of the man (hah!), that’s what I got from all this. And also a great Bob Dylan tune, that won WB an Academy Award. Seriously, though, it treads some interesting topics, without being very serious about them, and unlike most movies about writing, it manages to balance its narrative excesses with interesting people. That’s all there is to it, really. 8/10

IT: Chapter 2 (2019): Following up on the arguably successful IT re-imagining of two years ago, the adult version is tonally impaired, overlong and processional. It takes its characters and isolates them in Derry, which is not really a grown-up thing to do, and in spite of emphasizing the importance of their shared resistance, has them spend a lot of the story separated (for scheduling reasons? don’t know). A big, multiple legged clown reminiscent of unimaginative end-game bosses doesn’t make for a great showdown either. It might not be a terrible movie (the remake wasn’t that great either), goes for some jump scares, but for the most part it felt disjointed and a bit of a let down. 5/10

Ad Astra (2019): There are a few things Ad Astra has going for it – great visuals, great soundtrack via Max Richter and a real retro-future feel that’s captivating. Unfortunately, it also features an average script with a less than engaging mid-life crisis story starring the most beautiful astronaut that never was, Brad Pitt. The lack of a pay-off / satisfying climax doesn’t help much either, nor do a couple of action sequences (beautiful, again) thrown into the mix simply for a change of pace. But somehow, overall, I developed a fondness for it and the more I think of the movie, the more I want to see it again. The manner in which it captures the haunting beauty of space is memorable, even Pitt’s ponderous character sometimes draws you to him, it’s just disappointing that the big-corp, socio-political criticism is less than imaginative. Definitely worth the look and feel of IMAX and reflecting upon it in the 48 hrs since seeing it makes me will it towards an 8/10!

Downton Abbey (2019): I remember thoroughly enjoying the first two seasons of DA, before it started venturing into serious melodrama territory and I just couldn’t watch any more. Having caught up on events with a ten minute recap, my hopes were that the movie offered fan service with a dollop of nostalgia value on top, without being too ambitious. Thankfully, it delivered – even though it feels like everything that’s happening is terribly low-stakes for all the kerfuffle, show creator and screenwriter Jullian Fellows managed to show why it’s important for our characters, and not take itself too seriously in the process. I even wept a tear at what is, most likely, one of Maggie Smith’s final roles, in a heartfelt send-off. So yes, go for it Downton Abbey fans! For the rest of you, go through the show first a bit, because if you have no relation to the characters, this will not resonate. 7/10

68 Kill (2017): To be honest, I saw this one three weeks ago or so and didn’t get to review it at the time. It was pretty fun to watch, but not that memorable – something in the spirit of Slice, which I wrote about last time around, but not quite as memorable. You’ve got yourself a guy who’s in a relationship with a chick that’s way too hardcore for him, but the story goes quickly from “mildly weird” to “batshit crazy”, in a violent bonanza where, ironically enough, chicks kick as and definitely don’t take names. 68 Kill can’t sustain its energetic tempo and lost me when things got flat, but it’s twists and the odd ultra-violence made sure it fits a niche. Is it yours? 6/10

Movies of the Weeks #36 #37 (2019)

Le grand bain (2019): There’s something endearing about a bunch of middle-aged men solving their mid-life-crises by forming a synchronized swimming team. The strong cast, starring familiar faces like Mathieu Amalric and Guillaume Canet, keeps the whole thing afloat, even in its drearier moments, as the movie sloppily spans over two hours. Its tone is not perfectly adjusted, with scenes worthy of sketch comedy, while others could well stem from traumatizing dramas, but overall the good intentions and positive vibes shine through. 7/10

Slice (2018): I went in expecting nothing of this 4.5 rated flick on IMDb and was pleasantly surprised by it. In a world of ghosts and werewolves, where no pizza boy (or girl) is safe, there’s social uproar to find the murdering slicer. Silly, yet played with a mostly straight face, the movie is a fresh enough allegory of prejudice that looks good and finds a balance between the ridiculous and the bizarre. I get it why some people have an aversion for this kind of story, unwilling to tolerate the serious treatment of a silly premise, but if you’re an open-minded geek, this can be worth your time. 6/10

Sense & Sensibility (2008): Following up Ang Lee’s 1995 adaptation of the Jane Austen novel seems like a daunting task. The 2008 take on the story tries to be structurally different, by proposing a mini-series, which is a mere half hour longer than the aforementioned movie. It works well, however, in terms of pacing. While without the likes of Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman, this mini-series is not lacking in heavy hitters, such as Dan Stevens, David Morrissey and Dominic Cooper. I wasn’t fully taken in by Marianne and Elinor Dashwood’s characters, with Charity Wakefield’s interpretation of the former particularly tame. Yet, they all grow on you, the way only an episodic tale can allow its characters to really grow, so I would judge this adaptation a success, if not quite the remarkable achievement of more than twenty years ago. 7/10

Good Boys (2019): From the producing mind of Seth Rogen comes a movie about three tweenage friends whose bond is under the usual social pressures of 6th grade conformity. They end up doing some crazy stuff, handle drugs, shoot guns, everything you would expect from Rogen, but what carries the movie is the underlying innocence that doesn’t come across as trite – at times. It’s worth a few laughs, but never hits the highs of preposterousness that I’d have liked. 6/10

The Dead Don’t Die (2019): Coming from Jim Jarmusch, this zombie apocalypse is a serious let down. In spite of its stellar cast (Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Tilda Swinton) and some familiar Jarmusch side-characters (Tom Waits, Iggy Pop, Steve Buscemi, RZA), the movie never takes off and never feels fresh. Some of its ideas have merit and the introspective, slow-paced approach to the zombie kerfuffle definitely had some potential, but in the end I got the distinct feeling that it’s the kind of ironic/meta zombie movie someone would do, if they hadn’t seen that many zombie movies of the last decade or so. 5/10

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

Movies of the Week #30 (2019)

Saving Mr. Banks (2013): A rare success story for the “movie about the movie” genre, SMB proves insightful, amusing and terribly emotional – sometimes to a fault. You probably know by now that I am strongly attached to Mary Poppins, which is why my liking of SMB should come as not so much of a surprise. The story highlights what I’ve always felt Mary Poppins was really about and takes full advantage of its phenomenal cast, with Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks at their delightful bests, alongside a bunch of very talented co-stars. The movie is not very ambitious, in that it streamlines reality to fit the Disney template, yet it manages to not only muster sentiment, but to also tell a proper tale. I cried, of course, but I always do that with the Poppins. 8/10

Alita: Battle Angel (2019): As with Ghost in the Shell, it proves elusive for Hollywood to get this whole cyber-humans concept right. Alita is definitely a well-oiled movie, with a strong overall look and some well choreographed fights, but it damn well feels like there’s not much of a ghost in its shell. To its credit, it manages to weave several plots together with coherence, so it’s a shame that it doesn’t treat its characters with as much care. Then again, director Robert Rodriguez has always been known for his cinematic flair, whereas the writing duo of James Cameron (!) and Laeta Kalogridis (Alexander, Terminator Genesys, Shutter Island) failed to bestow some much needed freshness to the movie. Functional, but not impressive. 6/10

Crawl (2019): I was looking forward to Alejandro Aja’s latest and, I’m glad to say, it fits the bill. A natural disaster/creature feature, the movie has a simple premise – during a hurricane, a daughter goes looking for her father, who, it turns out, is cornered in a basement by…alligators. Strong effects, decent acting and a healthy amount of tension make up for the less than imaginative narrative, even if, on the whole, the movie could have been more fierce and more imaginative. 6/10

The Shallows (2016): I had seen the movie on release, but per chance came across it on TV and made my family sit through it. Yum. It’s a good buddy feature to Crawl, even if I thought the pacing, set-pieces and Blake Lively’s performance made for an overall superior experience. Synopsis: surfer dudess gets caught in shark infested water and contemplates survival on a wet patch of stone. What worked really well for me was the sense that relief seems so close (the shore is right there, all the time), yet stays out of reach. Like, you know, in day to day life. Some proper chomps and a nice send-off make for an enjoyable ride. 7/10

Plus One (2019): As always, the key to good love on screen is choosing a duo with excellent chemistry to go down a familiar rom-com route, hence the plot: two friends tag-team their summer wedding season, which brings them together in ways they never imagined (lol). Maya Erskine and Jack Quaid work really well together and their chemistry is helped by the solid dialogue they share. For all the good work it does and good feeling it generates, a weak subplot involving one of the lead’s father getting remarried and a perfectly lame and predictable meltdown towards the end almost ruin a movie that does a lot of things right in capturing a piece of romance. Thankfully, I have a lot of goodwill. 7/10

Movies of the Weeks #27 #28 #29

Giant Little Ones (2018): In spite of treading familiar territory in terms of story and characters, the way in which director Keith Behrman conjures moods through colors and pacing is top-notch. The story of Franky, played by a young Jesse Eisenberg kind of fellow, and the falling out with his best friend edges towards the unlikely at times, but it is held together by the ephemeral melancholy that only the better coming-of-age movies have. Everyone seems to be in a different place on the sexual spectrum here, which makes certain scenes feel like a stretch, e.g. almost anything with the queer side-kick Mouse – a strange choice for a movie that works well with subtlety. That being said, it wasn’t a bad ride at all. 7/10

After Hours (1985): If you’re up for a trippy Scorsese movie that doesn’t really feel like a Scorsese movie, then this is something for you. In a story that pretty much sums up my expectations of what would happen if I ever left the house after 23.00, a humble word processor gets into the mess of his life when trying to hook up with a mysterious woman he meets at a coffee store. It’s all unlikely, sometimes ridiculous, often head-scratching, yet in the end everything finds a way to fall into place and make sense. Do try it out for taste. 8/10

Long Shot (2019): An old-school, perfectly amusing, not overly ambitious comedy, starring my erstwhile beloved, Charlize Theron (went for Sean Penn instead of me, how could she!), and the self-deprecating Seth Rogen, Long Shot is a movie about…friendship? I guess. Or a woman becoming US president, although that never comes across as being anything but a vehicle for quippy one-liners and solid situational comedy. The leads do a great job in carrying this, although I did appreciate June Raphael’s contribution to a couple of really entertaining scenes. So yeah, good for a laugh or two. 7/10

Yesterday (2019): It’s hard to believe a movie directed by Danny Boyle and written by Richard Curtis can fail so hard. Alas, Yesterday proved a huge disappointment. Which is even more of a shame, if you consider the potential behind its concept: what if The Beatles never existed and you were the only one in a position to recreate their music? You could wonder about the ethics of it, which is the only thing this movie really does. But you could also question whether it would be just as successful, how it would all look and feel if launched in the modern world. There’s too little of that in Yesterday, which also fails because the leading duo has no chemistry and there’s very little joy to the whole affair, just a lot of moral anxiety. Boo. One of the few upsides is that Kate McKinnon was awesome, so that’s that. 5/10

Las Herederas (2018): This is probably the first Paraguayan movie I’ve ever seen and that makes for a very strong start. People rarely talk about the idea of someone being a prisoner to their inheritance, but that is exactly what The Heiresses manages to capture, a story which uses strong contrast subplots of sexual desire and emotional fulfillment to create something quite special. Sure, it meanders some, but to good effect, in establishing the lead’s desire to break free of expectations, wealth, debt and everything in between. The fact that said lead, Ana Brun, is at her first screen credit, makes Marcelo Martinessi’s movie even more of a stand-out. Do watch. 8/10

Movies of the Weeks #25 #26 (2019)

This is Where I Leave You (2016): Star-studded family reunions rarely work well and, unfortunately, neither does TiWILY. Lead by Jason Bateman, Tina Fey and Adam Driver, the movie tries to create the familiar tension of reunions, with secrets unfolding and comatose passions reigniting. At times, it does a decent job, with some of the subplots proving worthwhile diversions. However, it rarely feels fresh, which is why my recommendation comes with an asterisk. 6/10

Dick (1999): I thought little of Dick as it started unfolding – another run of the mill spoof that feels too much of a caricature to really be enjoyable. But as the movie went on, its quirkiness became endearing, and it left me with the feeling that everyone was having a lot of fun with it – no clue if that’s factual, not that it matters. Michelle Williams and Kirsten Dunst are pretty amazing in roles that could easily have played out as I initially thought they would. So even if you’re not familiar with the topic of Nixon/Watergate, this re-envisioning of events can prove more fun than you think. 7/10

The Mustang (2019): A poor man’s The Rider, The Mustang is still a solid movie, starring Matthias Schoenaerts and Bruce Dern. It’s partly a tale about the fate of wild mustangs, partly a tale o redemption, with an angry, imprisoned man who finds an unexpected outlet in breaking said mustangs – a rather unimaginative allegory. However, Schoenaerts’s and Dern’s energy, alongside some visually striking scenes, make up for the film’s weak script and if we consider this is the first feature by director/writer Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre, then there are reasons to keep the faith. 7/10

Shazam (2019): Not quite sure what I expected of Shazam, one of the more appreciated DC movie adaptations. As far as origin stories go, this isn’t a bad one, with bad-boy-foster-boy Billy Batson appropriately grunge for his age. It’s a tame effort overall though, with some decent touches to make it likable, but the stakes rarely appear high enough to matter. The movie feels distinctly PG, even if it doesn’t always look it, targeted at a teenage demographic, with little to offer to the more pretentious viewer like myself. 6/10

Child’s Play (2019): I couldn’t say whether I ever saw the original from beginning to end. In my mind, it’s a gruesome affair, less campy than this re-envisioned, modernistic take. That being said, this new Child’s Play tries to be a cautionary tale about IOT (haha), which makes it a seem ridiculous at times. Rarely does the movie find a voice and tone, with some scenes juvenile and silly, whereas others are brutally violent. At no time, though, was it really scary, which is a shame. I did like bits of it, but it’s a missed opportunity overall. 6/10

Movies of the Week #23 #24 (2019)

Horror turns classical mush-fest

The Perfection (2018): While the movie boasts some cool visuals with strong musical backdrops, it’s farther off from perfection than it probably desires. (Some spoilers ahead) After a promising and thoroughly sexy set-up, it swerves into explanatory flashback territory (a big no-no) before going into full revenge porn mode. Unimaginative twists and a cultish, cliched antagonistic force did little to redeem the latter part of the thing, which is held up by the aforementioned cinematography. Such a shame. 5/10

Hold my phone

Den skyldige (2018): The much acclaimed Danish movie is a strong and mostly successful take on the Phone Booth (2002) model, but even more minimalistic. It succeeds wonderfully in creating tension and offering good depth to its protagonist, a police officer on alarm duty who happens upon a kidnapping. The guy oversteps his responsibilities in a (sometimes) frustratingly reckless manner, with consequences both expected and unexpected. It all tied up too nicely by the end, but conjuring this kind of tension from a story that unfolds within two rooms is an impressive feat. 7/10

AKA school and teachers

Stockholm (2018): A good trailer got me excited about Stockholm, an interpretive re-imagining of the bank heist that lead to the unearthing of the so-called Stockholm syndrome. Unfortunately, Robert Budreau’s story isn’t as explosive as I was led to believe, as it fails to really work the ‘kidnapped-but-thoroughly-charmed’ angle, with characters that puzzlingly lack charisma. Although a mere 92 minutes, it felt long and tired, rarely offering anything remotely memorable. 5/10

” Announcin’ your plans is a good way to hear god laugh.

Deadwood (2019): After more than a decade’s worth of delays, the Deadwood movie has finally seen the light of day. In a rather masterful composition, show creator David Milch manages to really synthesize what the show stood for, to refresh the characters we’ve always known and to wriggle everything around a story that proves both familiar and surprising. Some things change, most things don’t – that seems to be the motto to go by here. Indeed, I felt terribly old, thinking back on the Deadwood days of 2006. Since then, technology has rampantly changed the way in which we lead our lives, something that the movie touches upon heavily and poetically; the old Shakespearian wit of the Wild West is stronger than ever in the mouths of Al, Bullock and co. That being said, this is definitely an experience for the already initiated, as it lacks the run-time to properly expand upon its characters, their motivations and, particularly, their relationships. 8/10

Not great, but not terrible (jk, jk!)

Chernobyl (2019): Cheating a bit here to include HBO’s mini-series on my list. Ridiculously popular by now, the true story of the 1986 explosion at the Chernobyl reactor nr. 4 is a riveting piece of film-making, that could have done with more nuance in key points. The first episode is pure poetry to me, a menacing tale of horror that crawls under your skin without any excesses or cheap stunts. The immensity of the situation, the stunted flow of information, the near-philosophical degree of indoctrination make for a great opening salvo. It remains interesting throughout the series, as we unfold the human drama, the systemic failures, the political weightlifting. Alas, the degree of autonomy and opinionhood it bestows on some of its characters is out of place and off-putting, which ended up bothering me. That being said, it’s great to finally reveal part of the tales and myths surrounding Chernobyl and for it to be done so memorably is just a gift. 8/10