Saturday, April 22, 2017

Personal Shopper (2016)

Director: Olivier Assayas. Cast: Kristen Stewart, Lars Eidinger. 105 min. Rated R. France/Germany. Mystery/Thriller.

Anything I write about the story might spoil the entertainment, So I'll just limit to say: (a) from the get go you'll notice it's from the same director who made Clouds of Sils Maria, (b) it's the most intelligent, audience-respecting ghost story you'll ever see, (c) it provides undeniable proof of Kristen Stewart's acting skills, (d) the ending scene will have you scurrying what other writers' interpretation of it was. And since I did the same (the best one here) and therefore cheated in the process ... I can't give it a MoMagic. But it deserves one.

Mo says:

Monday, April 17, 2017

The Age of Shadows (2016)

Director: Jee-woon Kim. Cast: Kang-ho Song, Yoo Gong. 140 min. South Korea. Action/Thriller. 

My time-proven theory for watching a subtitled movie here, is that distributors predicted a profit in America's dumbed-down audiences, so it must be good. But South Korea's entry for the 2017 Oscars (which beat the captivating Handmaiden) doesn't make life easy: it's quite difficult to read the fast-moving subtitles and keep Jung Chae-San, Kim Woo-Jin, Lee Jung-Chool and Yun Gye-Soon apart. Nevertheless, patience during the first half of this long beautifully-shot cat-and-mouse spy thriller set in 1920s Korea, will deliver nail-biting moments of action and suspense during the second half that proves again you never leave a Korean movie unsatisfied.

Mo says:

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Founder (2016)

Director: John Lee Hancock. Cast: Michael Keaton, Nick Offerman, John Carroll Lynch, Laura Dern, Patrick Wilson. 115 min. Rated PG-13. Biography.

No spoiler: as soon as you see Michael Keaton as "The Founder" of McDonald's, while his last name in the movie is not McDonald, you know it's the story of an ambitious, exploiting back-stabber, who swindled the McDonald brothers out of their rights to one of the most popular franchises in the world. And although Keaton does great work here, you're skeptical about him overacting in the role, especially after his Birdman Oscar loss. Nevertheless, this is a story about the bitter realities of capitalism that needs to be seen.

Mo says:

Prevenge (2016)

Director: Alice Lowe. Cast: Alice Lowe, Gemma Whelan, Kate Dickie. 88 min. Rated R. UK. Comedy/Horror.

The title says it all: a pregnant woman takes revenge on those whom she believes wronged her. But while the film by director/writer/lead actress Lowe may serve to expose how the standards of Western societies actually undermine and weaken a pregnant woman's standing, the fact that it's a horror/comedy about pregnancy-related psychosis trivializes and deflates the movie's (assumed) intended message; i.e. the lady is crazy, so we can ignore her issues. And the protagonist's grotesque make-up at the end is suspicious for the writer's intent to "create" a cult movie, which is weird.

Mo says:

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Jagged Edge (1985)

Director: Richard Marquand. Cast: Jeff Bridges, Glenn Close, Peter Coyote, Robert Loggia, Lance Henriksen. 108 min. Rated R. Mystery/Thriller.

In a courtroom thriller by the director of Return of the Jedi based on a screenplay by Joe Eszterhas, a man is accused of killing his wealthy wife. If you've seen similar later movies with structures perfected by the likes of Eszterhas himself (Basic Instinct immediately comes to mind), you can guess the ending from a mile away - which renders the entire film somewhat lame. And while a twist during the final scene comes as a shock, quite a bit of story logic is sacrificed to make that twist work. With more ambition, this could have become an important landmark.

Trivia: Marquand died of a stroke just two years after this film, at the age of 49.

Mo says:

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Life (2017)

Director: Daniel Espinosa. Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Ryan Reynolds. 104 min. Rated R. Horror/Sci-fi.

Strange phenomenon: while structured like a darker version Gravity, by reiterating Alien's best segments, the movie audaciously admits to be a copy of it but then manages to keep you engaged. The calm-before-the-storm interaction with the alien, the parasite's oral penetration and bursting out of a host, the incredibly fast-growing predator, the deceiving crew member who's trying to protect the species ... they're all here. And even though it's dumbed down by giving the seaweed-like alien an angry face, there's a clever ending twist that I didn't see coming. Proves again what a powerful groundbreaking film the 1979 classic was.

Mo says:

The Accountant (2016)

Director: Gavin O'Connor. Cast: Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick, J.K. Simmons, Jon Bernthal, Jeffrey Tambor, John Lithgow. 128 min. Rated R. Action/Crime.

Rain Man meets Jason Bourne. Autistic man uses his passion for accuracy to take on a life as a hired accountant and mercenary. The opening scenes interested me that maybe we're seeing a different Affleck persona - one where he's a quiet, eccentric and calculating but ruthless killer. But then he gets into action, and his doomed prospects of rivaling buddy Matt Damon as both Will Hunting and Jason Bourne combined, somehow reminded of the way he flexed his muscles in Gigli. Ben Affleck seriously needs to quit acting, and just stick to what he's actually good at: directing.

Mo says:

Friday, March 31, 2017

Excalibur (1981)

Director: John Boorman. Cast: Nigel Terry, Helen Mirren, Nicholas Clay, Cherie Lunghi, Nicol Williamson, Gabriel Byrne, Liam Neeson, Patrick Stewart, Ciarán Hinds. 140 min. Rated PG. USA/UK. Fantasty/Epic.

There are much older and less glamorous movies you watch for the first time today, and they're as captivating as they come. Excalibur is not one of those. While I'm sure this King Arthur epic, a good place to learn the story, was a visual feat for its own time, the lame dialogue squashes any chance of 'epic-ness', Merlin lacks the awe to cast any spell on the imagination, and some up-and-coming actors who later became 1990s titans (Stewart, Byrnes, Neeson) look plain silly in their over-acted roles. A Peter Jackson-level version of the King Arthur legend is long overdue.

PS: Rated PG! The rating system was definitely not working well in the 80s.

Mo says:

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Beauty and the Beast (2017)

Director: Bill Condon. Cast: Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Josh Gad, Kevin Kline, Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellen, Emma Thompson, Stanley Tucci, Gugu Mbatha-Raw. 129 min. Rated PG. Fantasy/Musical.

After the live-action remake of Cinderella turned out so unworthy-of-a-review 'ordinary', my expectations had diminished. But this remake of the 1991 animated masterpiece achieves the impossible: it upgrades it. The gorgeous uplifting scenery (specifically during the new splendidly elaborated opening narration) reawakened inner feelings of child wonder, and Emma Watson is surprisingly perfect as Belle. The concept of the re-imagined delightful songs and inspiring story being as entertaining as the cartoon, reminded of "Les Misérables": no matter how many versions of the story you see, the magic never gets old. Hadn't enjoyed a kids movie such in a long time.

PS: The whole fiasco over LeFou being the first gay Disney character, is ludicrous. The suggestion is unbelievably subtle for kids.

PPS: During the ending credits, it was fun to see actors from the Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and X-Men franchises had all participated in the project.

Mo says:

Friday, March 24, 2017

McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971)

Director: Robert Altman. Cast: Warren Beatty, Julie Christie, Shelley Duvall, Keith Carradine, William Devane, 120 min. Rated R. Western.

Altman's famed "anti-Western". There's not much to the story: a gambler/entrepreneur embarks upon opening a bordello in a remote Old West mining town, and as soon as it becomes successful, a major corporation wants to take over. But it's not about the story. It's about Warren Beatty, playing against type under a bushy beard, making dumb business mistakes in this cold, gloomy town, and participating in a final showdown while not being the fastest gun in the West. You can physically feel how it felt to live in those times, and that's quite rare. Truly an anti-Western.

Mo says:

Naked Lunch (1991)

Director: David Cronenberg. Cast: Peter Weller, Judy Davis, Ian Holm, Julian Sands, Roy Scheider. 115 min. Rated R. Canada/UK/Japan. Fantasy.

I'm sure William S. Burroughs was a prominent writer, and I know Cronenberg is a great film-maker. But there's a certain amount of abstraction one can take. This well-acted, beautifully-shot, bug-and-alien-infested chunk of delusion takes so many bizarre twists and turns, you already lose hope after the first half hour in any form of a coherent story - or even what the hallucinatory fantasies may represent. This is David Lynch on speed, and considering what Lynch was already on ...

Mo says:

Christine (1983)

Director: John Carpenter. Cast: Keith Gordon, John Stockwell, Alexandra Paul, Robert Prosky, Harry Dean Stanton, Kelly Preston. 110 min. Rated R. Thriller.

High-school nerd becomes infatuated with a beautiful red 1957 Plymouth Fury ... which has a passion for killing. This does not function as a horror movie; rather, structured similar to The Shining, illustrates a loner who after becoming obsessed with an inanimate object with a mind of its own, slowly loses his mind. The film's smoldering creepy feeling must have been innovative for the 80s, and some lingering moments, such as the "self-rejuvenation" scene, and the car-in-flames speeding after its next victim, make this metaphor for America's car lust one of Carpenter's memorable films, and one of Stephen King's better adaptations.

Mo says: