Wednesday, July 18, 2018

The Commitments (1991)

Director: Alan Parker. Cast: Robert Arkins, Michael Aherne, Angeline Ball, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Colm Meaney. 118 min. Rated R. Muscial/Comedy.

In the late 80s Dublin, working class youngster starts a soul music band. That bizarre combination flows throughout the movie, most hilariously displayed as the band's in-fighting behind the scenes, while simultaneously performing the perfect show on stage - creating genuine, tear-flowing laughs. It'd been a long time since I'd seen a movie with a heart. In fact, I don't recall ever seeing a 'bad' Alan Parker movie.

PS: Watching this, I suddenly realized where Irish director John Carney (OnceBegin AgainSing Street) keeps copying his musical movie-making style from. Actually, Glen Hansard, the star of Once, is 'The Commitments' guitarist.

Mo says:

Columbus (2017)

Director: Kogonada. Cast: John Cho, Haley Lu Richardson, Parker Posey, Rory Culkin. 100 min. Not Rated. Drama.

The unusual friendship between a middle-aged Korean man, who arrives in Columbus to attend his famous architect father's deathbed, and a smart twenty-something year-old girl, who's stuck with her mom's companionship before moving out into the world. Among all this, Columbus' architecture (and its incredible framing in numerous shots) plays a major role in the story, even though I didn't know that's what Columbus is famous for (which I guess is the point - lost souls in a lost city). Reminiscent  of Paterson or Linklater’s Before trilogy, but the 98% on the Tomatometer is a tad too generous.

Mo says:


Friday, July 13, 2018

Polytechnique (2009)

Director: Denis Villeneuve. Cast: Maxim Gaudette, Sébastien Huberdeau, Karine Vanasse. 77 min. Not Rated. Canada. Crime/History.

One of the earlier films of Canadian auteur Villeneuve (Prisoners, SicarioArrival, Blade Runner 2049), based on the Montreal Massacre of 1989, where an anti-feminist murdered numerous engineering students. Obviously invites comparisons to Gus Van Sant's Palme d'Or winner, Elephant, based on the Columbine school shooting - and in those terms, even though Villeneuve dampens the violence by shooting in black-in-white, it's still too in-your-face disturbing, and nowhere as effective as Van Sant's off-screen violence. Incendies and Prisoners contain significant violence also, but this felt like Villeneuve used it to establish his roots. Okay, I was fast-forwarding the film. That disturbing.

Mo says:

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)

Director: Peyton Reed. Cast: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Micahel Douglas, Michael Peña, Hannah John-Kamen, Walton Goggins, Bobby Cannavale, Judy Greer, Michelle Pfeiffer, Laurence Fishburne. 118 min. Rated PG-13. Action/Sci-Fi.

More of the same, more of the same. Ant-man along with Deadpool, with their style deviations from the mainstream, were supposed to act as antidotes to superhero movie fatigue, but hey ... now they've copied them in sequels, which in effect neutralizes the philosophy of their primary existence! The only new element here could've been a cool-looking new villain, Ghost, but even she isn't sure whose side she's on. So we're left with a post-credits scene which is more captivating than the entire movie - considering you've seen and enjoyed Avengers: Infinity War, that is.

Mo says:

The Chamber (1996)

Director: James Foley. Cast: Chris O'Donnell, Gene Hackman, Faye Dunaway, Robert Prosky. 113 min. Rated R. Crime/Drama.

This was the only John Grisham-based movie I hadn't seen at the time, and I'm glad I it visited today. There was an era when we thought racists and the KKK were the fringe of the society; cool movie villains played around merely for entertainment purposes. Now we discover not only can they flip governments, they might even bring down democracies. This could've just been another 90's movie (curiously, films of the same decade almost all look and feel the same), but in the case of The Chamber ... not anymore.

Mo says:

Thursday, June 28, 2018

A Wrinkle in Time (2018)

Director: Ava DuVernay. Cast: Storm Reid, Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Deric McCabe, Chris Pine, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Zach Galifianakis, Michael Peña, André Holland, David Oyelowo. 109 min. Rated PG. Fantasy/Family.

Sometimes, five minutes into a movie you're thinking: this is just wrong. Idiotic dialogue, impossible coincidences, explanatory shots for self-explanatory moments (close-up of school principal's desk plaque saying ... "Principal"), all ensure this isn't an exercise in subtleties. Top that with dazzling CGI to cover up a nonsensical story, and an entirely unnecessary character traveling with our hero sister-brother duo, and you have a concoction that spells doom. The only interesting elements here are ripped off of The Neverending Story (but then the source book for Wrinkle predates Story). Maybe DuVernay should stick to documentary or documentary-style; storytelling isn't her forte.

Mo says:

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Won't You Be My Neighbor? (2018)

Director: Morgan Neville. 94 min. Rated PG-13. Documentary.

Hard to believe there was a time when people like Fred Rodgers existed among us ... and had a platform - and that time was not too long ago. Hard to believe how important it was to him to protect my generation from the evils of the world, and simultaneously converse with us on the toughest subjects children could grasp. This documentary shows how before the millennials took over, there was actually a plan that went into our childhood, on what to be (and not to be) exposed to, and that Mr. Rodgers was behind that plan. Bring some napkins along.

PS: Who was the idiot who ruined the film's perfect 100% Tomatometer score?

Mo says:

The Night Eats the World (2018)

Director: Dominique Rocher. Cast: Anders Danielsen Lie, Golshifteh Farahani, Denis Lavant. 90 min. France. Thriller/Horror.

Opens with a simple but incredible premise: what if you, as the protagonist does, wake up some day, and realize everything you knew (people, surroundings, rules) had literally or metaphorically changed? Would you 'stay' ... or 'move'? I'd rather not spoil how the story sets the viewer up for this quandary; suffice to say it appropriately employs a famed horror element, because that is a scary question to pose. Sadly, the film doesn't carry its engaging opening through the second half, and even an ending subplot twist reminiscent of another recent film fails to save it from monotony.

Mo says:

Thelma (2017)

Director: Joachim Trier. Cast: Eili Harboe, Kaya Wilkins, Henrik Rafaelsen. 116 min. Not Rated. Norway/France/Denmark/Sweden. Horror.

Advertised as one of the obscure gems of 2017, a teenage girl with strict religious upbringing discovers she may have supernatural powers, that manifest when she's having seizures. The story is creepily well-paced, but suffers from: 1. The girl’s telekinetic abilities, sexual awakening, religious suppression, death of a loved one, ... all too heavily borrow from Carrie, and 2. Investigators in the story use strobe lights to experimentally induce a seizure in the girl with such frequency and length that if you’re not epileptic, you will be by the end of the movie. And we thought Incredibles 2 was bad.

Mo says:

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: