Sunday, December 10, 2017

Mudbound (2017)

Director: Dee Rees. Cast: Garrett Hedlund, Carey Mulligan, Jason Clarke, Rob Morgan, Jonathan Banks, Jason Mitchell, Mary J. Blige. 134 min. Rated R. Drama.

There is a powerful vignette on display in Mudbound: two young officers, one black and one white, return from WWII Europe to their common Mississippi hometown, both to learn that in terms of the racism and hatred gnarling through America's South, the devastation of war was immensely more preferable to what they see at home. Considering now there's doubt whether that Southern mentality has improved much during the past 70 years, this is a shocking concept. If not for a few distracting subplots which unnecessarily prolong the movie, Mudbound could've been one of this year's masterpieces.

PS: Also created by and available on Netflix. For the past 10-15 years, from mail-in DVDs to online streaming to creating their own original material, the Netflix platform has truly changed (IMO, worsened) the 'movie-going experience'. Mudbound is an epic movie that should've been watched on a big screen, not on your insignificant smartphones.

Mo says:

Voyeur (2017)

Director(s): Myles Kane, Josh Koury. 96 min.

Initially reminding me of The Dog, this documentary made me wonder why waste time on a motel-owner who was spying on guests for thirty years. But the film was not about voyeurism. Rather, about humans falling prey to their vanity, their search for fame, their search for something as 'dumb' as money - and risking their entire reputation in pursuit of those goals. And by that, ... I don't only mean the voyeur of interest here. In an era when sketchy journalism, "tailoring" facts, and prioritizing "appearance" to core reality (metaphors scattered throughout the film) are magnified, Voyeur becomes an important story.

PS: Available on Netflix.

Mo says:

Friday, December 8, 2017

Wonder (2017)

Director: Stephen Chbosky. Cast: Jacob Tremblay, Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson, Mandy Patinkin. 113 min. Rated PG. USA/Hong Kong. Drama/Family.

We already know: a film about a facially disfigured boy, how he is bullied at school, creates a network through hardship, and builds some courage to react. But that's just the surface. The core is, we're living in dark times, and rarely do you see a movie exude such innocence, reminiscent of Spielberg's 80s concept of 'family'. Which is what makes the honesty in Roberts' and Wilson's performance so appropriate and powerful (noticed how they've never played villains?). We need more movies like this ... to calm us down. Bring some napkins along.

PS: Thank you for recommendation, Peter J. Almost brushed it off.

Mo says:

Brad's Status (2017)

Director: Mike White. Cast: Ben Stiller, Austin Abrams, Jenna Fischer, Michael Sheen, Luke Wilson. 102 min. Rated R. Drama.

Before taking his teenager on an East Coast college tour, academic father has a mid-life crisis that is triggered by ... Facebook pics of former classmates boasting how financially successful they are. In other words, the setting is somewhat pathetic. While the dialogue is engaging (and funny), and even though during the course of the film he is told how petty his first-world scruples are, I was still never able to empathize with this character. Similar to The Meyerowitz Stories, Ben Stiller falls into crying spells, which makes you think: maybe some of his own personal issues are playing out here.

Mo says:

Brigsby Bear (2017)

Director: Dave McCary. Cast: Kyle Mooney, Mark Hamill, Greg Kinnear, Claire Danes, Andy Samberg. 97 min. Rated PG-13. Comedy/Drama.

I bet SNL star and writer Kyle Mooney watched Yorgos Lanthimos' Dogtooth, the story of kids held captive in their house by parents who've brought them up in an imaginary world, then asked himself: What if one of those teenagers escaped, and impossibly tried to adjust to the new, real world? Because that's where the tough questions start. Brigsby Bear shows different possibilities, one of which includes shouting and yelling in hope of ramming your logic into your opponent's brain. And that is why this movie is important for our times. Or any time.

Mo says:

Monday, December 4, 2017

Tulip Fever (2017)

Director: Justin Chadwick. Cast: Alicia Vikander, Dane DeHaan, Jack O'Connell, Zach Galifianakis, Judi Dench, Christoph Waltz, Cara Delevingne. 105 min. Rated R. UK/USA. Drama/Romance.

Seventeenth century Amsterdam, two parallel story-lines: one the period's tulip business craze, the other some trickery between two women (one pregnant, none feverish). The hilarious part is, except for one common character, the two stories almost never meet! Even worse, there's some parallel editing between two! So if one was planned as a metaphor for the other (tulip for pregnancy, or pregnancy for tulip), that metaphor was lost on me. We're dealt a movie with a nonsensical structure, and popular actors in throwaway roles - who probably just signed up to pay the bills (Vikander did 5 obscure movies in 2017).

Mo says:

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Detroit (2017)

Director: Kathryn Bigelow. Cast: John Boyega, Anthony Mackie, Algee Smith, Hannah Murray, John Krasinski. 143 min. Rated R. History/Crime.

When projecting the feeling of the 1967 Detroit riots, Kathryn Bigelow takes a page out of Ava DuVernay's Selma notebook by interposing actual footage, and expanding that technique throughout the opening moments; filming documentary-style, without claiming to be a documentary. But the major blow comes from Bigelow reminding us of a feeble-minded official's recent "very fine people on both sides" quote: that if a narrative is told or interpreted by a low intellect mindset, even KKK members could be considered 'fine'. This is a long movie, but it made me think ... maybe Trump is honestly unable to analyze any better.

Mo says:

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)

Director: Martin McDonagh. Cast: Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, Caleb Landry Jones, Abbie Cornish, Lucas Hedges, Peter Dinklage, John Hawkes, Clarke Peters. 115 min. Rated R. UK/USA. Drama/Comedy.

Martin McDonagh's third feature (In BrudgesSeven Psychopaths) is a film that juggles too many subjects, and almost resolves none. And by that, I don't mean the seemingly incomplete ending, which is actually perfect. You're not sure what the director's main concern here is, but my guess: the universal racism embedded in all of us. This in itself could be an opportune message for our times, but then you have subplots that almost take over the main plot, and a pivotal while impossibly coincidental moment towards the end. As a result, you have superb acting wasted on unforgivable mistakes.

Mo says:

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017)

Director: Matthew Vaughn. Cast: Taron Egerton, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Julianne Moore, Pedro Pascal, Michael Gambon, Channing Tatum, Halle Berry, Elton John, Jeff Bridges, Bruce Greenwood, Emily Watson. 141 min. UK/USA. Action/Comedy.

Compared to the original, which included multiple Star Wars references, the sequel goes back to its roots with numerous James Bond homages (metallic claw-arm, knife-jabbing shoe, etc). But that's all the sequel does: stays at its roots. We have the same comedic gruesome violence and slow-motion/camera-spinning action shots, simply substituting bad guy Samuel Jackson here with bad girl Julianne Moore. There was an interesting theme with a Trump-like President sanctioning American death and skilled professionals following him to a tee - but hey, you don't want to alienate half your viewers, do you? Avoid the controversy; keep the cash flowing.

Mo says:

Crooked House (2017)

Director: Gilles Paquet-Brenner. Cast: Christina Hendricks, Honor Kneafsey, Gillian Anderson, Glenn Close, Max Irons, Stefanie Martini, Terence Stamp, Amanda Abbington, Julian Sands. 115 min. Rated PG-13. UK. Crime/Mystery.

You see those names among the cast, and resisting the urge to watch another Agatha Christie adaptation becomes quite a task - even though you've read the book decades ago and vaguely remember whodunit. And while American actresses (Close and Anderson) faking British accents or the boring quarrels of a typical English mansion may all wake you out of your movie dream, you still don't mind. What amazed me, was how the creepy and twisted ending, which may have been blasphemous for the time of the novel's writing, has now become quite acceptable. The times, they are a changin'.

Mo says:

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Justice League (2017)

Director: Zack Snyder. Cast: Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Ray Fisher, Jeremy Irons, Diane Lane, Connie Nielsen, J.K. Simmons, CiarĂ¡n Hinds, Amber Heard, Joe Morton. 120 min. Rated PG-13. USA/UK/Canada. Action/Fantasy.

Justice League's main success ... is that it manages to avoid being as awful as its predecessor, Batman v Superman. Otherwise, this is just a superhero movie like any other, big monstrous villain and collection of heroes clobbering each other around through the most minimal plot. Primarily Gal Gadot (as Wonder Woman) and secondarily Ezra Miller (as Flash) are the rare specimens that keep the character dynamics interesting, but Ben Affleck once again proves he was one of the worst possible choices for Batman. How disappointing that the movie we could only dream about since childhood, eventually turned out like this.

Mo says:

Monday, November 27, 2017

Lady Bird (2017)

Director: Greta Gerwig. Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Beanie Feldstein. 93 min. Rated R.  Drama/Comedy.

All of us have experienced teenage angst, so the idea of a film playing out such a commonplace theme on screen sounds dull. Conclusively, making an engaging film on the subject is extremely difficult. That's the incredible goal Greta Gerwig (in her second directorial effort, first in ten years) achieves here. I'm not a teenage girl with a jobless dad and a mother hounding me down, but I exactly understood how this protagonist felt, because the film manages to show real people with real issues. Linklater's Before trilogy was the last time I experienced such 'hyper-realism' at portraying day-to-day life.

PS: Not only 100% on the Tomatometer, but the best reviewed film of all time? I mean, it's good, but not that good ...

Mo says: