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Archive | September, 2017

Stronger Review

27 Sep

Finally. Finally a biopic that doesn’t treat its story beats like attention grabbing headlines. Finally a camera willing to linger in the right moments without reveling in or dismissing pain. Finally a “true story” film that recognizes that themes like strength, perseverance, and even patriotism can absolutely be expressed through personal, intimate human moments. I’m not saying Stronger is a pioneer in those areas, but I’ve been conditioned to expect a certain type of film with these biopics, i.e. a sanitized, rushed, and ultimately dismissive Greatest Hits reel that does a disservice to real life struggles. Thankfully, that’s not what we get here.

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Kingsman: The Golden Circle Review

22 Sep

Bloated and a bit draining, but still lots of fun due to Vaughn’s stylized, over the top gore fests. There’s nothing here quite as memorable as what we saw in the first film, but there’s a slapstick swagger to it all that can be infectious at times. A great villain can also go a long way in any film, and Julianne Moore’s Poppy certainly fits that bill. She plays her character like a drunk, slightly unhinged evil genius, and it’s very fun to watch even if the writing fails her at times. Other standout performances include that of Pedro Pascal, Elton John (in a ridiculously hammy role that would only work in something like this), and the always dependable Mark Strong. Unsurprisingly, all of the cast members deliver the charm even amid the screenplay’s myriad questionable choices. Continue reading

Battle of the Sexes Review

20 Sep

A crowdpleaser in the same vein as last year’s Hidden Figures. It doesn’t do anything remarkable, but it coasts on its galvanizing real life story and the unwavering charm of its talented cast. Stone and Riseborough in particular bring some heart to their characters’ romance, even though the latter gets the short end of the stick when it comes to character development. Perhaps time would’ve been better spent on her rather than on Carell, who thank the lord is entertaining as hell because any drama that revolves around his character feels forced and half-baked. When the film zeroes in on Billie Jean King, it oftentimes shines, so the drama needlessly being diluted across several characters is unfortunate. Nevertheless, an altogether very pleasant experience, especially due to Nicholas Britell’s beautiful score and Linus Sandgren’s unfussy, period-appropriate shooting approach. Sandgren truly does have an eye for the way colors work in tandem, creating a vibrant but calming presence in the background.

Attended the premiere. Saw everyone. Met Linus Sandgren, Bill Pullman, Sara Bareilles, and Justin Hurwitz. Was cool.

GRADE: B

mother! Review

17 Sep

This is a tough one. Parts of it are intense, full throttle filmmaking, the type of contained space pressure cooker that’s right up my alley. Other parts are exceedingly dumb, the type of faux profound grandstanding that spews from the mind of a guy who probably got a few too many pats on the back when he was younger. And no, just because certain elements of the script seem to deal with this notion of celebrity–and arguably with the meaning of Aronofsky’s own place in the world as a creative mind–that does not for one second excuse his poor choices. When I evaluate films that are ridiculous and campy like this one is at times, I wholly appreciate it if and only if I get the sense that the filmmaker understands and embraces what he or she is doing. From Aronofsky, I get the sense that his form of self awareness is a form of smug self-seriousness rather than a driver of the cinematic experience. Now, the Aronofsky Touch worked in Black Swan, but that’s because that film was a true psychological thriller, a more tightly structured piece that had more to say about fewer things.

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The Layover Review

15 Sep

The only reason I spent a single penny on this movie was because William H. Macy and Alexandra Daddario were doing a Q&A. It was simultaneously the most pathetic Q&A I’ve ever seen and one of the best ones I will ever attend. Picture this: a large screening room, not even half full, at one of the very few theaters in the country that will be screening this critically panned, straight to VOD release. Add onto that the fact that goddamn William H. Macy directed it and showed up for this and that a conversation about Boogie Nights occurred. I’m so glad I went; the Q&A was intimate, fun, and loose, and the fact that there was no conceivable reason for it taking place made it even better. Plus, being in the same room as Alex Daddario consists of being assaulted by laser beams from her killer eyes, and talking to her will instantly liquefy your internal organs. “I love this broad!” was an actual quote from Macy early on during the Q&A. I relate.

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Marjorie Prime Review

1 Sep

An intriguing conceptual anchor dealing with the pliability and selectivity of memory, unfortunately reduced to listless conversations and underdeveloped characters. There’s an admirable attempt to build off of those themes via the unspooling of backstory against the backdrop of familial and generational dynamics, but there’s a clumsiness in the way it’s handled. Perhaps the translation from stage to film left some blanks that needed to be quickly filled, resulting in a weak script backing up a unique vision. Nevertheless, I came for Hamm and I left satisfied, and the film is at its best when it focuses on him and Marjorie (an excellent Lois Smith). There are two conversations that are decidedly not listless: the opening and closing scenes of the film, which mark the most interesting engagements with the subject matter. All around a solid production–Robbins and Davis deliver, and Williams as d.p. and Levi as composer are great choices–but it doesn’t quite reach the heights it strives for.

GRADE: B-

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