Da 5 Bloods
On the Record
I May Destroy You
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Who knew Spaniards could be so boring and unsympathetic?
The Square Is Irregularly Shaped with some Interesting Corners
The Square has some great moments and a very disjointed plot. Some of
the scenes are spot-on critiques of the art world. However, the movie
wanders aimlessly without a thread that drives the plot from beginning
to end. The main thing the audience learns is that the director of the
modern art gallery is a self centered, arrogant racist, which isn't
much to hang a film on let alone get people excited about. I don't mind
terrible protagonists, but give me one strong, main plot, instead of
three or more weak ones.
Claes Bang plays the museum director, Christian, and some of his
dialogue is hilarious. Anne, Elisabeth Moss, has a one night stand with
the arrogant Christian and she wants more. But then that plot line dies
and another about Mr. Bang's missing wallet takes over. None of the
story lines are fully developed and it makes a film about modern art
too artsy and annoying. Luckily the dialogue and bizarre situations in
the film make The Square worth a look.
The filming and scenes are fine, but I didn't walk away amazed. The
music was uninspired, but it is better than being cloying and obtrusive
like so many soundtracks have been this decade, Dunkirk being one of
the worst examples of this.
Rating: Matinée. There are plenty of interesting things to see and
enjoy in The Square. Revelations about life are art are not among them.
Peace, Tex Shelters
Lady Bird Gets out of its Own Way to be a Great Film
Lady Bird is a coming of age story of Christine "Lady Bird" McPherson, and it's a well done slice of life. Her mother is overbearing and abusive, a bit of a cliche', but because the character is in the hands of the adept Laurie Metcalf, it works. And Saoirse Ronan is nearly perfect in the starring role. In fact, all the acting is top notch. Moreover, the script works. Clearly, the author, Greta Gerwig , took the time to edit and craft dialogue carefully so that it is natural.
At the beginning of the film, the animosity between Lady Bird and her mother was over the top. But as the film and the charcters developed, the dialogue made more sense. Her mother was unhappy and overly critical, but it was real. The mother isn't a pleasant character, Lady Bird is a bit too dismissive and dad (great acting by Larry McPherson) is caught in the middle. Yes, mom is annoyingly cloying, and Lady Bird is inconsiderate. And that is the way mothers and daughters are toward each sometimes.
The boys in the film are also developed enough to not be stereotypes. It's amazing how a woman can write such realistic male characters. I would never think a woman could do that! The music mainly stays out of the way, and while some scenes go over the top, overall, it succeeds.
Rating: Pay Full Price
Good acting makes up for a few trite moments.
"Wonder": This elevator only goes down
"Wonder" stars the standout Jason Tremblay of Room. This time, he's grown up and plays Auggie, a 5th Grader and not a five year old as he did in Room. The other standouts include Noah Jupe as Jack, his friend, Bryce Gheisar as Julian, his bully, and Izabela Vidovic as Via (Olivia), his sister. Owen Wilson snarks his way though the film with a some decent dialogue and not much else. Julia Roberts is okay and only slightly nauseating as the mother. Again, the dialogue elevated her performance until the last scenes.
In the end, "Wonder" fell apart like a cheap computer that has just passed it's warranty date.
Stephen Chbosky's directing of "Wonder," based on the book by R.J. Palacio, is okay, but nothing special. The writing saves a few scenes, the dialogue at least, but the ending ruined a perfectly decent film.
The music was too loud and overbearing, especially during the last unbelievable moments of a film the writers ruined by making sure we were all uplifted by the special moment. In fact, the events in the film for Auggie, a physically deformed boy from birth, pass too easily and with few complications. It would have made a great after-school special, a cliché insult that is totally appropriate here.
The start of the movie brought us into the drama in an interesting manner by slowly introducing us to Auggie, his issues, and his challenges going to school. Another thing the film does well is show how the drama played just not for Auggie, the child with the genetic disfigurement, but how it affects his sister, his sister's best friend Miranda and his friend Jake.
My mom said "Wonder" was long. It seemed long, although it was less than two hours. That's not a good sign. If I were to rate the movie from the first third, I would say pay full price. But after thinking about the ending of the film I have to rate it lower. ?
Rating: Rent it.
The maudlin ending ruined a well constructed opening. But don't blame Tremblay or the other child actors. Blame the writers and director who seemed to think they needed a rousing, over the top ending to sell tickets to a film-going public he seems to think are emotionally retarded.
The Florida Project: It would have been better as a documentary.
The Florida Project is compelling, wondrous and bleak. I don't mind bleak. I loved "Moon", "Moonlight" and "Monster," among other bleak cinema. And like those films, The Florida Project is full of great performances. But to what end? It goes nowhere. The film is a series of concentric plot circles leading to the same conclusion over and over. It plays as a fantasy in many ways. The problem? The situation presented in the film is all too real, and it would have been better as a documentary.
The filmmakers find a way to make the dismal landscape of low-end hotels neighboring Disney World visually interesting. Not once did the angles or edits disrupt the excellent performances of the actors. The children were particularly excellent in the film, but the adults also shine. The film wasn't expensive to shoot, but it was inventive. Let that be a lesson to all directors and cinematographers: cranes, planes and helicopters are not needed to produce compelling visuals.
The music was pleasant and subtle. Finally, a drama that finds the story compelling enough to not flood the audience with insipid music just in case they didn't get that a war is DRAMATIC! Feel, damn it, feel! I'm talking to you John Williams, and now you, Hans Zimmer (see my Dunkirk review). And guess what? It's less expensive to have simple orchestration and sound.
The conflicts in the story reflect the real struggles of real people who have no reason or chance to invest in politics or community, people who never know if they will have a place to sleep or food to eat the next day. In other words, they are people the politicians in D.C., state capitals, the media and most citizens ignore. They are the precariat. I assume the writers (Sean Baker and Chris Bergoch) and director (Sean Baker) made this film fictional so more people would see it. However, if the point was to criticize our capitalist system that leaves too many behind and suffering, then it misses the mark. It's a nice film that audiences will forget tomorrow and nothing will change for the actual people living precarious lives like the characters in this film.
The ending to the The Florida Project works, and doesn't. It trivializes the situation of the characters and detracts from a touching moment between two of the outstanding child stars. However, the ending fits with the film's themes of escapism and survival. Go see it and decide for yourself. ??Rating: Matinee.
The film is well done but too long. Perhaps the tedium of events in the film was used to show the tedium of the lives of the characters. But film needs to go beyond a presentation. If it addresses serious issues, it need to blend elements of character, plot and setting to imply a third meaning. In the film's efforts to create dramatic realism, The Florida Project misses a real opportunity to show the problems with our economy and inequality in the world in general. The film skirts above the surface of the issues and lacks the depth and grit to be truly impactful. In the end, its subjects become mere objects for us to wonder over like displays at Disney World. ??
The Battle of the Sexes: An Ace
The new film directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris and written by Simon Beaufoy is a loving tribute to a tennis great. But it's not King's tennis that gets the majority of the play, though she won 39 major titles in singles, doubles and mixed doubles, it's her record at decreasing income equality in her chosen vocation. At the end of the movie, the changes in LGBQT rights since King became an advocate were highlighted as was the change in pay for woman players, but her record breaking tennis career is not highlighted in the epilogue.
The plot is brisk but it doesn't rush. One problem is the sections featuring Billy Jean King were far more interesting than the sections with the tiresome and sexist, Bobby Riggs. It's not so much that Emma Stone's performance as King outdoes Steve Carell as Riggs, it is that Riggs "is a clown" and very unlikable. Carell does the best he can with a very unlikable yet not a sinister, male chauvinist. He's not even the antagonist of the film. It is the overriding sexism in the sport regardless of the popularity of the women players that is the villain here. And the issue of pay equity is still relevant.
The supporting cast is stellar. Sarah Silverman is a much better actor than I would have expected. And Bill Pullman's Jack Kramer, the sexist head of the American Tennis Associate, is a delight. It's also fun to see Alan Cumming in a role he get to sink his teeth into. Jessica McNamee as Australian tennis great Margaret Court does a good job portraying her homophobia without going overboard. I credit a good script for that.
The costumes are spot on. The music is timely. The sets are period, 1970s chic. The conflict between chauvinism and feminism are realistic. The attitudes played authentic. All in all, the film works as a period piece regarding an important issue.
There is not much to the movie. It doesn't overplay the material, try to make a grand statement, or become testimonial to equal rights. It is the right size and stays on task with the help of a good script and an impeccable performance by Stone as Billy Jean King.
Rating: Pay Full Price.
It's not perfect, and the character didn't always act the way I wanted them to. But I can't blame the plot. That's real life for ya. ??
Kingsman: A Golden Letdown
Kingsman: The Golden Circle, is bigger, badder, faster and furiouser. The problem is it expands on the overblown action of the first Kingsman but doesn't feature the same charm and entertaining snark of the first film. It is only, after all, a sequel: i.e. not as good as the first with repeated themes and plot lines. The action scenes, however, are still spectacular.
This time out, the plot has so many lasso holes that it's a distraction. Even in fantasy and spy films you need to have some internal logic. The logic here doesn't work. They make up too many fantastic explanations for the action that it doesn't make sense and I started to wonder why they bothered with the plot at all. Again, and I repeat myself, the rush to make a sequel led to a script that was ill-conceived and shoddy.
The parts that return aren't as good. Eggsy, played by Taron Egerton, is now jaded and arrogant. He lost the charm and naiveté that made the first Kingsman so endearing. The subplots are ridiculous and cringe worthy. I am not a prude, but the way they handle the planting of a bug was stupid and adolescent. If I wanted stupid and adolescent, I would watch The Hangover. And by the way, there is mucous in the mouth.
Jeff Bridges' part was terrible and underwritten. Tatum Channing is...Tatum Channing, a hot piece of flesh but not a credible spy. Halle Barry plays a spy who can't get a promotion and is under-utilized, kind of like an underutilized Oscar winning actress. Colin Firth's Harry is written so the actor can sleep walk like an amnesiac through the film. Mark Strong retains his dignity as Merlin, and his small part might be why. The real winner is Pedro Pascal, who plays the Statesmen's agent Whiskey. His screen presence is reminiscent of a younger Burt Reynolds. You know, when Reynolds was charming and on top. The Elton John cameo is worth a view. It will play on Youtube within the year, I suspect. Look for it there.
And the romance? If I wanted an insipid romance, I would watch "Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason." Okay, it wasn't that bad, but it was unnecessary filler and cringe worthy. What they could have done is give us more backstory with Poppy and the amusing Julianne Moore. Moreover, Poppy's set piece is hilarious and amazing. Too bad they didn't use some of that money for a script rewrite.
The film has a few amusing parts and the fight scenes are worth watching on Netflix, if you have time.
mother!, oh brother!
"mother!" is a film that is trying to shock us but it craps out into ridiculousness. Trying to make their point leads to exploitation. I started yelling Get Out! inside my head near the end of the first act when mother! was having a bad time. She just didn't leave. Neither did I when the signs of a disaster of a film appeared.
Their house, the house of mother! and man, is in the middle of nowhere. And I don't care. Earth is also in the middle of nowhere astronomically, if you know what I mean, and do you think inhabitants of other worlds care? I don't think so.
Yes, "mother!" is a multi-allegory story. It looks good, but it lacks story craft and subtlety. It smacks us relentlessly in the face with drama and terrible human behavior. Or is it terrible? The behavior was obviously out of the norm. And we are supposed to accept it because it's an allegory about the world and god. Woo hoo! It's just stupid and obvious and not compelling at all.
Rating: I want my money back.
An exploitation film pretending to be art is still an exploitation film.
I saw IT.
I saw IT, and for the review I thought of Abbott and Costello:??
Abbott: What movie did you see?
Costello: I saw IT.
A: What movie?
A: So you saw a movie?
C: Yes, I saw IT.
I wish I had been thinking more along the lines of "What the hell was that!?" or "GD, I'm not seeing that again!" or "Man, that scene in the house, freaky!"
But sadly, no. It just wasn't that scary, nor was it that creepy. Nor was it funny. It was a film with some good acting by kids, some decent make up, some okay effects and not much else. Years from now I won't be talking about this film like I have after seeing Psycho, The Exorcist, Split, Get Out, Alien or other classic horror films. For creeps, see the Japanese psychological thriller "Creepy" or the Dutch film "Borgman."
The film has too many cliches. What's with the scary teeth? For me, scary teeth became a cliche after watching Alien. Couldn't we have strangling ears or a deadly projectile shooting nose instead? And why the damsel in distress? That trope is so tired, even Disney has dropped it in their latest animated films. Other than the one girl, there was the chubby kid, the Jewish kid, the total nerd, the asthmatic and the normal kid, who was cute, but had one defect of sorts. Hey, at least the one black kid doesn't die.
That's not to say it wasn't mildly entertaining. It was. And the visuals were fantastic while the music didn't suck. Instead of spending more verbiage on a forgettable film, I will cut to the chase.
If you like horror films and hate clowns, it's worth a look. Otherwise, rent any of the above films or see The Amazing Wonder Ape World of Mexican Mutants instead.
13 Minutes, a Review
IN A WORLD...OF WORN OUT SUPER HEROES, TIRED REMAKES AND SEQUELs, COMES A FILM SO SHOCKING MULTIPLEXES ALL OVER THE NATION WOULDN'T SHOW IT. FROM A COUNTRY THAT BROUGHT US THE NAZIS, RELIABLE CARS AND SCHADENFREUDE COMES a film about a socialist trying to kill Hitler in 1939 in Munich?! 13 Minutes is a film so audacious that it shows that socialists were not always the bad guys.
The Nazis and Socialists, along with your standard capitalist parties, were fighting for control of the hearts, minds and power in Germany, we'll say since the end of World War I because that's the point in which 13 Minutes first mentions the conflict.
Spoiler alert!: the Nazis were elected to power and systematically started to remove their opponents through work camps, torture, and their favorite, murder. Mild mannered carpenter and socialist sympathizer Georg Elser, played adroitly by Christian Friedel, sees the atrocities of the Nazis. Like many Germans, he decided to resists. In his case, he planned to blow up Hitler, a fantasy many of us had in our youth.
We learn all of this right in the beginning, in the trailer actually. What unfolds is the Nazis attempt to understand how this "lowly carpenter" could have done this alone. Their technique for "understanding" include various forms of torture that would have made Spanish Inquisitors sit up and take notice. What also unfolds is the cause of Elser coming to such a radical decision and his many romances, including the love of his life.
I assume that more of us would have found a way to flee Germany when the Nazis started killing people in our town. I would have chosen the "flight" route myself. Not good old, crafty Elser, who patriotically, as the film plays it, decided to take action. He planted a bomb that missed his target by...some amount of minutes. I don't want to spoil it for you.
The acting is one of the best things about the film. From the bit parts, to the incredibly scary Nazis (IT has nothing on these Nazis), to the love interests, to the towns people, to the socialists, they were all well played. Moreover, the portrayal of the Hitler youth was more frightening than anything I saw in IT.
The costuming and settings were impeccable and the filming framed the action in a simple yet interesting manner. It is German cinema, after all, from the director who brought us the gut-wrenching "Downfall." The music was not overwrought or cloying like Hans Zimmer's "Dunkirk" soundtrack. Overall, the production values show the best of modern cinema.
The parts that don't work could have been fixed with one more pass through the script. There are scenes where the leads, Elser specifically, act out of character. A line or two, five minutes more of screen time, would have solved these issues. While we know the character of Elser, his actions don't match that character in two important ways. Most people won't notice, and I whole-heartedly recommend 13 Minutes.
Rating: Pay Full Price. ??
Wind River: Misses the Mark but Tries real Hard
When Wind River doesn't try to be more than a nice mystery featuring clashing white and Native cultures, grief and meditations while staring at wide open spaces, it works. When it turns into a hyper tense drama of shock and violence, it plays as false.
There is a rape scene that was unnecessary and drawn out in the film. It did nothing to add to the mystery or the plot of the film. In fact, it ruined was little mystery the story had. It was a reveal that was unnecessary.
Then there is the unrealistic shoot out. It is highly unlikely it would have happen at all, except perhaps for one hot headed character. If they had limited the action to him, the plot would have made more sense. However unrealistic this gunfight was, it was well filmed.
Was Jeremy Renner's character, Cory Lambert, a white savior in Wind River? Partially. He wasn't a white knight in the classic sense. He didn't save the day, he didn't rescue all the people, but he did save some. The character, a white hunter from Fish and Wildlife, is not out of place in Wyoming. However, it could have easily been a Native American actor and all the hemming and hawing about belonging on the reservation as a white guy would have been avoided.
Renner does a good job with the material, regardless. And Elizabeth Olsen does a fine job as Agent Banner from Las Vegas. There is one scene where she is reminiscent of Agent Starling from "Silence of the Lambs", but the characters are different. Starling presented a preppy image, Agent Banner is more earthly and less cerebral. And the cases are different.
Some critics call "Wind River" slow paced. That's only true if you expected the pacing of Fast and Furious or Super hero film. The pacing matched the setting and plot and some people will find it slow.
Others call the sound track dismal. It was quiet and minimalist. I guess they wanted an overwrought John Williams or Hans Zimmer sound track. The music works well for the film, except the times I heard the chanted words. The vocals distracted from the viewing.
There are many out of character actions by characters in the film. The actions by Lambert at the end of the film didn't make sense. Why did he go to save some people and make sure they were okay and not check on some of his closest friends? Why would private security draw on the police and Marshalls when they could have just asked for a warrant?
The film looks good and has some decent acting, but the plot doesn't hold enough mystery and that was spoiled in the end of the second act by an unnecessary, some might call exploitative, flashback.
It wasn't the worst rural, Native lands cop drama I've seen, but it had many problems.