Thursday, June 21, 2018

Incredibles 2 (2018)

Director: Brad Bird. Cast (voices): Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Sarah Vowell, Huck Milner, Catherine Keener, Bob Odenkirk, Samuel L. Jackson, Isabella Rossellini, Jonathan Banks. 118 min. Rated PG. Animation.

A good example of how over-promoting a movie can spoil the fun. The ads and trailers of this long-awaited sequel heralded two of the film's concepts: the cuteness of having a superhero baby in the family (merely expanded in some funny sequences), and a mother defined as the 'under-appreciated super-heroine', a concept which through some boring conversations that entirely fly over the kids' heads, is juxtaposed against its counterpart, the 'under-appreciated super-villainess'. Also, with some action scenes as fillers. Let's just say Pixar didn't deliver much further than the trailer.

Mo says:

The Day of the Jackal (1973)

Director: Fred Zinnemann. Cast: Edward Fox, Terence Alexander, Michael Lonsdale, Derek Jacobi, Olga Georges-Picot. 143 min. Rated PG. UK/France. Thriller.

Before the era of choppy nerve-wracking editing, before there was a John Williams to make the simplest scenes exciting, before mercenaries in movies delivered more muscle than brain-work ... there was this slow, engaging police procedural, based on Frederick Forsyth's bestseller, and directed by one of the best filmmakers of its time, about a fictional attempt on Charles De Gaulle's life. No, don't say it's an old movie. This was the foundation upon which the best spy thrillers today are made. Give yourself a chance to be mesmerized with proper film-making.

Mo says:

Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story (2017)

Director: Alexandra Dean. 88 min. Documentary.

Hedy Lamarr, the actress who ... sorry, Hedy Lamarr, the inventor whose innovations on radio wave 'frequency-hopping' for submarines during WWII laid the framework for multi-billion dollar industries such as WiFi and Bluetooth decades later - while she never received a penny. I hadn't watched any of Lamarr's films before this documentary, but saw her most famous Samson and Delilah afterwards, and realized why she'd been so wronged during her lifetime: it's extremely difficult to see past that blinding star power - let alone see a scientist. A must-see for anyone familiar with her work; movies or otherwise.

PS: Available on Netflix.

Mo says:

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Unsane (2018)

Director: Steven Soderbergh. Cast: Claire Foy, Joshua Leonard, Amy Irving, Jay Pharoah, Juno Temple,  Matt Damon. 98 min. Rated R. Thriller.

Several years ago, Soderbergh said he's retiring from directing. Then he keeps directing film and TV, which is fine, but you'd think these are probably passion projects enticing enough to be pulling him out of retirement - not annoying artsy-looking psychobabble which you're not sure is about health insurance fraud, or psychotic delusions, or stalker mentality, or all the above. What you are sure, is that the movie is designed to bother the viewer, under the guise of a psychological thriller, to the very last minute. Literally the last minute.

PS: Hard to believe: the first and last time we saw Joshua Leonard, was in The Blair Witch Project as one of the lost hikers ... 20 years ago.

Mo says:

Monday, June 11, 2018

The Insult (L'insulte) (2017)

Director: Ziad Doueiri. Cast: Adel Karam, Kamel El Basha, Camille Salameh, Rita Hayek. 112 min. Rated R. France/Cyprus/Belgium/Lebanon/USA. Drama.

It's obvious why this relatively obscure film was nominated for a Foreign-Language Oscar. A refugee Palestinian construction worker hurls an insult at an extremist Christian Lebanese mechanic, and the ensuing trial mushrooms into a national crisis. Ring a bell? It all boils down to anger at why the system occasionally serves the minority (the Mexicans, African-Americans, gays, women, etc ...) over the majority (the middle class white American male), and why even a notion of a solution requires looking back into decades of smoldering animosity (the O.J. trial). You'll start contemplating how we ended up with Trump in the first place.

Mo says:

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Hereditary (2018)

Director: Ari Aster. Cast: Toni Collette, Milly Shapiro, Gabriel Byrne, Alex Wolff, Ann Dowd. 127 min. Rated R. Horror/Mystery.

Halfway into this, you think: the mental aftermaths of losing a loved one, even for an historically schizophrenic family (cleverly blurring the line between delusion and reality) may be ‘scarily’ traumatic ... but that hardly constitutes horror. Well, think again. Combined with ingenious audiovisual cues, the way the final half-hour suddenly flips the established setup on its head and delivers its unexpected and creepy ending, you’d imagine this should be taught in film school as 'horror film-making 101'. Entirely relying on viewer intelligence, Hereditary pulls it off. It had been a long time since I’d been scared in the theater.

Mo says:

Friday, June 8, 2018

Adrift (2018)

Director: Baltasar Kormákur. Cast: Shailene Woodley, Sam Claflin. 96 min. Rated PG-13. Biography/Adventure.

I've read this being described as "a lost-at-sea story with a tragic ending", which couldn't be a dumber description. And even though based on the trailer, I was preparing myself for a long, slow movie about how a young couple in the mid-80s did (or didn't) survive a never-ending mishap in the Pacific Ocean, and the script throws every trick in the book, including flashbacks and flash-forwards, to make this true story more interesting, ... what I wasn't prepared for was an ending twist, which instantaneously elevated my score from So-So to Mojo. Don't read anything about it - go in fresh.

Mo says:

Friday, June 1, 2018

Upgrade (2018)

Director: Leigh Whannell. Cast: Logan Marshall-Green, Harrison Gilbertson, Betty Gabriel. 95 min. Rated R. Australia. Sci-fi.

Opens as 'The Six-Million Dollar Man', or Robocop with Dock Ock's tentacles, evolves into Her and Ex Machina A.I. scares, then blasts off into the premise of one groundbreaking 1999 sci-fi - because the virtual world narcotic is less painful than the real world. As the action scenes passed by, I went from "maybe an 'upgrade' isn't too bad after all", to "... maybe an upgrade is really bad." Writer/director Whannell uses the same structure he wrote into Saw, flashing us back through the entire film for the surprise ending. We decide whether to stay awake afterward, or go to sleep.

Mo says:

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Deadpool 2 (2018)

Director: David Leitch. Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Josh Brolin, Morena Baccarin, Julian Dennison, Zazie Beetz, T.J. Miller, Eddie Marsan, Bill Skarsgård. 119 min. Rated R. Action/Comedy.

So they came up with the cool new idea of a vulgar, violence-ridden, other-movie-referencing, fourth-wall-breaking, superhero movie in the original, and it was successful, so they said hey! Let’s make the sequel another vulgar, violence-ridden, other-movie-referencing, fourth-wall-breaking superhero movie! Simple as that. And to round it up, they keep drilling in the fact that in the Marvel Universe, whoever dies, no matter how prolonged and heart-wrenching the death scene, they never stay dead. Never, ever, ever. With Thanos and Cable (The Terminator!), curious how strong Josh Brolin’s connections were to end him up with 2018’s two best Marvel villain roles.

 PS: Funny fraction-of-a-second Brad Pitt cameo, but other cameos discovered later? Matt Damon and Alan Tudyk.

Mo says:

Thoroughbreds (2017)

Director: Cory Finley. Cast: Olivia Cooke, Anya Taylor-Joy, Anton Yelchin, Paul Sparks. 92 min. Rated R. Drama/Thriller.

Poison Ivy. Heavenly Creatures. Ginger Snaps. When two eccentric teenage girls bond an unlikely friendship, it’s a forgone conclusion that someone, somewhere, will die, and Thoroughbreds is no exception. But it’s about the journey, not the destination, and this story of a smart but cold provoker and her rich but undecided follower will keep you involved till the very end. The final scene almost shies away from an impactful dark ending the way Ingrid Goes West did, but the combined performances of Olivia Cooke (Ready Player One) and Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch) are so memorable, you’re willing to forgive.

Mo says:

Fahrenheit 451 (2018)

Director: Ramin Bahrani. Cast: Michael B. Jordan, Michael Shannon, Sofia Boutella, Keir Dullea. 100 min. Sci-fi.

Of course it's an opportune time for remakes of older dystopian novels, such as "The Handmaid's Tale" and "Fahrenheit 451". But in an era when the government is openly attacking the press, only a few steps from burning books, this story in particular loses its cautionary power, because the fiction part of the science-fiction, is becoming reality. I was expecting Bahrani to see that, and while updating scientific aspects of the story, to add new sociopolitical layers to the original concept. Combined with the vagueness of the protagonist's motives and metamorphosis, this movie becomes worthwhile, but not lasting. 

PS: Fahrenheit 451 shows the Iranian-American indie filmmaker, Ramin Bahrani (Goodbye Solo, At Any Price, 99 Homes), once named by Roger Ebert "the new great American director" (who wrote this movie with another famed but exiled Iranian filmmaker, Amir Naderi), is inching toward a Hollywood career. I hate to see them corrupting him with the next Marvel movie ...

PPS: Short appearance by Keir Dullea, of 2001: A Space Odyssey fame.

Mo says:

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)

Director: Ron Howard. Cast: Alden Ehrenreich, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Thandie Newton, Joonas Suotamo, Paul Bettany, Jon Favreau, Erin Kellyman, Linda Hunt. 135 min. Rated PG-13. Action/Fantasy.

A month ago, I predicted on Facebook that Solo will consist of how Han met Chewie (check), how he flew the Kessel run (check), how Lando lost the Falcon to Han (check), how their separation was sub-optimal (check). So in a middle-finger gesture at my prophetic skills, Disney/Ron Howard also hint at Solo’s Jabba the Hutt employment, and put the “Han shot first” question to rest. And since a post-credits scene is somewhat shameful in the Marvel era, they suddenly bring a long-dead character to life ... pre-credits. So unexpected! The sole creative element here, is a feminist droid. Yep.

Mo says: