Archive

2017

imageA period piece and feminist tract that soon devolves into The Hand that Rocks the Cradle, if you like icy, sterile, and bleak films featuring an unsympathetic sociopathic murderess, run, don’t walk, to the Redbox!

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My first thought for a first sentence of this review was “I don’t get it.” But that was at about 1/4 of the way through this sparse (budget – $100,000) and ingenious film that unfolds at its own languorous pace, with every scene building upon the last.

The story is simple. Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara are a young couple on the verge of a move from their home when Affleck dies in a tragic traffic accident. Rather than ascend to the hereafter, his ghost returns to the home. And that is where we find him. For all ages. Mind you, he is not in a CGI, wispy and elegiac form. He is wearing a sheet with two holes cut out for eyes.  And his rambler (not a creepy Victorian) is the place he haunts, throughout eternity.

Wordlessly.

The film is at first uncomfortable.  It’s hard to adjust to the low-tech representation of ghostdom, and writer director David Lowery’s penchant for lassitude tests, but soon, through the patience of the director and the stoic and sad nature of Affleck’s choice, you invest totally in his journey.

This is an art film. As such, it takes chances other movies would not dream of. Not all of its choices hit the mark, but by the end, it proves to be thoughtful, accomplished, and really intriguing.

I am stil not sure that I get it. But have been thinking and talking about it ever since watching. That alone merits high marks.

 

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Much like all of the rest of the DC/Marvel dreck, although this one is plagued by an even higher degree of contempt for the audience. The script is lazy and moronic. The look is cheap (Gal Godot reminded me of Harry Hamlin in Clash of the Titans). The slo-mo seems positively retro. The soundtrack is oppressive and unyielding.  The villain is obvious.  The homily (“only love can truly save the world”) overly earnest even for this kind of popcorn flick.  The Battle Royale finale a snore.

This is a movie you can’t even really fold laundry to.  Though Godot ain’t hard on the eyes and she and Captain Kirk have a few cute moments together, she’s at heart a dolt, wide eyed and stupid or, when she kind of gets it, petulant and stupid.

And the proof is in the historical pudding. After World War I ends, which coincides with the end of the film, she makes it her mission in voiceover to spread peace in our time.  We all know how that turned out.

A charming, surprisingly thoughtful film, anchored by co- writer Kumail Nanjiani’s (Silicon Valley) substantial performance and deft support by Holly Hunter and Ray Romano.  Nanjiani is a stand-up comic (a staple in a Judd Apatow produced film) and Uber driver who falls for student Zoe Kazan, a gentle heckler at one of his shows.  The hitch is his family and his cultural background – he is a Muslim from Pakistan and while he is decidedly “American” in most respects, his parents will not countenance his marrying a non-Muslim and per custom, are in the process of arranging his nuptials.  To that end, he is enlisted for ritual family dinners with prospective suitable brides, none of whom do it for him.  But he is both dishonest and weak, keeping his cultural constraints secret from Kazan while feigning devotion to his parents even as he blows off prayers and tantalizes them with the possibility of law school.  When Kazan confronts him, he wilts and does not choose her.

And then she gets sick.  So sick, she is placed in a medically-induced coma, necessitating his attention, not only towards her but her parents (Hunter and Romano).  The experience forces him to reevaluate his station, his choices and his own cowardice.

This could have been played mainly for laughs and it would have worked very well.  And the film is very funny,  Nanjiani has an understated humor, at once self-deprecating and subtle.  Some of the best moments are when he makes a joke to people who are a little slow on the uptake, only to immediately apologize at the moment the jest dawns on them.  Nanjiani is, naturally, surrounded by comedians who relentlessly attack each other, also providing solid humor.

But what elevates the film is Nanjiani’s impressive expression in dealing not only with the culture tug of his family, but with the depth of emotion at the near-death of who he comes to realize is the woman he loves.  And in his support for her parents (Hunter and Romano), from whom he gets both caution and encouragement, he grows.  The movie works on multiple levels, you invest in these people, and the result is a really tight, funny, bittersweet picture.

It has been an atrocious year for films, but this would stand out in a solid one.

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Director Andy Muschietti’s knows his way around a spook story, as evidenced by his very creepy Mama, and with the aid of a troupe of incredibly gifted child actors and the can’t miss image of a clown roaming the sewers, he delivers the goods.  The film rocks you with jump scares and terrifying imagery as Pennywise hunts his prey, and Muschietti covers his doomed Maine town in dread.  Yet, the relationships between the children are authentic and sweet, engendering empathy and bolstering a critical plot point in combating the evil that lurks below.

My orthodontist used to have his walls covered by clowns of every shape and size, a decor choice which contributed to my crooked teeth.   In every clown on that wall was a potential Pennywise, a diabolical trickster and eater of souls with a gift for gab that could entice vulnerable kids to their doom.

But enough about me.  Muschietti’s Pennywise is as indelible and monstrous a film character as I’ve seen.

There are a few weaknesses.  The film is too long, and as my son pointed out, they could have done with one less child character.  There are also a few script clunkers, such as when one of the children mentions that the town has six times the national average in missing people, and a higher percentage for kids.  Such a town would be dead, not seemingly thriving.

Last, Stephen King hates adults.  That is all well and good (who doesn’t?), but the conceit is hackneyed.  As with most King stories centered on kids, in It, every adult is cruel, abusive, distant, crazy and/or a molestor, which is meant to underscore the vulnerability of the children, but really, only serves to cheapen the story.

Still, this is well worth the $235 it currently costs to attend a movie.

 

 

 

In John Wick, the Mob tried to take the man’s car and they killed his puppy.  In response, he killed all of them.  Hundreds.  Everywhere.  It was gloriously simplistic and fun.

This time around, we delve deeper into John Wick’s criminal world, where he has a debt to pay pursuant to a criminal code, and there is an entire bad guy underworld and ruling structure, with politics, and apparently, 75% of the folks walking the streets of New York City are potential assassins.  More explication makes for a lesser film, and with the shootouts essentially the same as in the first picture, it’s pretty blah.

Spoiler – the new dog does not die.

 

The sequel to Prometheus, this is essentially that movie but shorn of all of “the beginning of man” mumbo jumbo and its hilarious inconsistencies/stupidities (I dug Prometheus, even though, in retrospect and after viewing this take-down, I felt a little ashamed):

In Covenant, a colonizing ship makes its way to the new planet, hyper-sleep is interrupted (note to self – no matter what sci-fi film you are in, hyper-sleep is a risky proposition) and rather than schlep to the first destination, our crew is enticed to another planet that just showed up on the horizon, one just perfect for colonization.  It’s almost too good to be true.  I mean, what could be out there?

Ridley Scott has a few decent scares and the plot moves, but the film is terribly derivative (hyper sleep went bad in Planet of the Apes, the poisonous Eden  is an old Star Trek, and synthetics getting too big for their intellectual britches is the sci-fi version of “it’s quiet out there . . . Yea.  Too quiet”) and adds nothing to the series.  And while I like Danny McBride, he’s not quite ready for dramatic, “just lost my wife” roles, and he’s too pudgy to be running around with a gun.  I thought one of the few benefits of hyper-sleep was weight loss?