Friday, September 30, 2016

The Innocents (Les innocentes) (2016)

Director: Anne Fontaine. Cast: Lou de Laâge, Agata Buzek, Agata Kulesza. 115 min. Rated PG-13. France/Poland. Drama/Historical.

If there's a story about a few nuns in a faraway land (Magdalene Sisters, Philomena), it's usually dark and depressing (Americans get Sister Act). I'd rather not disclose anything about this one, other than this too is of the former kind, and that something indescribable happens to nuns in a Polish convent at the end of the War. Otherwise, if you want the shock I received, go in watching this fresh. While the film would've benefited from a shorter duration, it proves that solely being a woman (and not necessarily a nun) at times of war, is considered a hazard.

Mo says:

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Blood Father (2016)

Director: Jean-François Richet. Cast : Mel Gibson, Erin Moriarty, Diego Luna, Michael Parks, Steve Buscemi. 88 min. Rated R. France. Action/Crime.

Mel Gibson has nurtured a career as the loner down the path to avenge his fiancee/wife/daughter/family's death. But starting from The Beaver, he's added the "social outcast" persona, probably to correspond with his personal life - and combined both here, as an ex-con who tries to protect her daughter from a drug cartel. A Tarantino favorite shows up in a great supporting role, and the early demise of another known actor gives away the fact that he's not really dead. But I enjoyed the simple story, and Gibson's return to his action days. He's fit for the role.

Mo says:

The Intervention (2016)

Director: Clea DuVall. Cast: Melanie Lynskey, Jason Ritter, Natasha Lyonne, Clea DuVall, Alia Shawkat, Cobie Smulders. 90 min. Rated R. Drama/Comedy.

A few friends gather in a mansion on a weekend, to convince two friends to get a divorce. I'm guessing this synopsis sounded interesting (it definitely worked on me), but when panned out in a movie, you suddenly realize how ludicrous it is. I mean, if you have friends who secretly make such plans for you, you must have some god-awful theories about friendship. DuVall has written interesting dialogue and characters for her directorial debut (especially for Lynsky), but the core concept just bogs the movie down, and having seen some movies helps you predict the ending.

Mo says:

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Swiss Army Man (2016)

Director(s): Dan Kwan, Daniel Scheinert. Cast: Paul Dano, Daniel Radcliffe, Mary Elizabeth Winstead. 97 min. Rated R. Comedy/Drama.

A guy on the verge of suicide befriends a corpse with extreme flatulence (among other pronounced bodily functions). I understand that both Dano and Radcliff do a fine job at playing these bizarre roles, and that when it comes to movies, saying something new, anything new, is considered a virtue. But that should not be the sole purpose of making a movie. Yes, even when it comes with an underlying message of "cherish life" ... it's still not worth the extremes or the (literal) insanity this film experiments with. Not that I'm spoiling anything.

Mo says:

Friday, September 23, 2016

Finding Altamira (2016)

Director: Hugh Hudson. Cast: Antonio Banderas, Golshifteh Farahani, Allegra Allen, Rupert Everett. 97 min. UK/France/Spain. Biography.

"Good guy scientist, bad guy priest". That juxtaposition, established during the first scenes of the film about Marcelino Sautuola, discoverer of paleolithic cave paintings in 1868 Spain, gradually becomes "good guy scientist, bad guy scientist" during the course of the movie, as other scientists reject the authenticity of the paintings. But the story doesn't go much beyond that. Hugh Hudson of Chariots of Fire fame, seems more interested in spectacular panoramic shots of rural Spain, making them a distraction rather than an asset to his film. And its humbling to watch his actors struggle to make the dull material work.

Mo says:

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Sully (2016)

Director: Clint Eastwood. Cast: Tom Hanks, Aaron Eckhart, Laura Linney, Anna Gunn. 96 min. Rated PG-13. Biography.

I think I know what Eastwood is getting at here. Heroes are not sure whether they deserve their popularity; not sure whether they earn their fame. May even be Eastwood's feeling about his own fame. But frankly, there's not enough material for a whole movie in this true story of the pilot who water-landed in the Hudson. The pivotal landing scene is incredibly well-directed - but is shown twice in live action, and four times through simulations, ... and the movie still barely makes the 90-minute mark. Even the ending is sudden and ill-conceived. Makes you feel Clint is tired of directing.

Mo says:

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Train to Busan (Busanhaeng ) (2016)

Director: Sang-ho Yeon. Cast: Yoo Gong, Soo-an Kim, Yu-mi Jeong. 118 min. South Korea. Horror/Thriller.

When it comes to thrills on a train, hand it to the Koreans, and they'll deliver. A father and daughter board a train to rekindle with the girl's mother who lives hours away, and the usual Korean gore-fest ensues, resulting in a tense action-packed thriller that robs you of any chance of looking at your watch for two full hours - and maybe even offers a social commentary along the way. If I were to list the three best zombie movies I've ever seen, this would be one of them.

PS: Here you go, Ali S. - you've done it again.

Mo says:

Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016)

Director: Taika Waititi. Cast: Sam Neill, Julian Dennison, Rima Te Wiata. 101 min. Rated PG-13. New Zealand. Comedy/Adventure.

New Zealand comedy. You'd never think it's an entity ... but it is! Housebound, What We Do in the Shadows, and now this, all make brilliant use of witty dialogue, employ the most simple story-telling techniques, and convey a smile even during tragic moments. And to deliver such a feeling, who better than a chubby 9-year-old boy, and a gruff old Sam Neil? Add to the concoction the most hilarious movie references you can ever recall, and you have a film sure to be watched again with friends in a near future.

Mo says:

Point Break (1991)

Director: Kathryn Bigelow. Cast: Patrick Swayze, Keanu Reeves, Gary Busey, Lori Petty. 122 min. Rated R. USA/Japan. Crime/Action.

Keanu Reeves must have been living in some limbo between his Bill & Ted's loser persona and the Speed/Matrix action hero ... because his pseudo-macho presence here is soooooo annoying. And the main problem is, his see-through presence is there from the film's very first scene to endure. Kathryn Bigelow's male-oriented buddy movie, with its incredible cinematography and gradual villain development, must have been a giant step forward in the crime genre for its own time - but three decades later, the movie is unable to pack a demonstrable punch, and any redeeming chance is ruined by clammy performances.

Mo says:

Flash Gordon (1980)

Director: Mike Hodges. Cast: Sam J. Jones, Melody Anderson, Max von Sydow, Haim Topol, Ornella Muti, Timothy Dalton, Brian Blessed. 111 min. Rated PG. UK/USA. Sci-fi/Action.

The fact that people were brave enough to embark on such cheesy endeavors in a post-Star Wars era, that the filmmakers confidently spoof the genre by making Flash Gordon a football player ... who actually plays football in the movie to fight Emperor Ming, that Max von Sydow thought this was worthy of his presence, that Queen wrote a song famously repeating "Flash!", that Timothy Dalton had a job after this (let alone as James Bond), and other insane facts, makes this one of the most watchable films ever - no matter how much you suffer watching it.

PS: Check IMDb out for some awesome trivia.

PPS: Thank you JZ, for forcing me to endure this test of patience! Thank you Amir D., for providing such a memorable experience!

Mo says:

Saturday, September 17, 2016

For the Love of Spock (2016)

Director: Adam Nimoy. 111 min. Canada/USA. Documentary.

Adam Nimoy, Leonard's son, chronicles his father's life and success as Spock, in a documentary he started making before his father's death. Almost none of the interesting stories told here about Nimoy are new to a Star Trek fan. This merely leaves us with the narration of the difficult relationship Adam had with his father. In other words, while describing Leonard Nimoy's personal troubles with his son makes this a more intimate story, you end up learning more about the son than the father - and that's not what you look for in a movie promising to be about Spock.

Mo says:

Thursday, September 15, 2016

De Palma (2015)

Director(s): Noah Baumbach, Jake Paltrow. 107 min. Rated R. Documentary.

By listening to interviews, I've always thought of Brian De Palma, one of the five directors who re-defined Hollywood in the 70s and brought us some eternally memorable movie moments, as an arrogant and somewhat angry person. This documentary, with its stationary camera giving him a towering, God-like presence, confirmed that feeling, and his unnecessary bad-mouthing of colleagues such as Oliver Stone or Sydney Lumet could be considered unprofessional. Still, as a walking history book, he's honest about his inspirations, and listening to his occasionally funny directing experiences makes this a must-see - especially if you've seen most of his films.

Mo says:

Me Before You (2016)

Director: Thea Sharrock. Cast: Emilia Clarke, Sam Claflin, Janet McTeer, Charles Dance, Jenna Coleman. Rated PG-13. 110 min. UK/USA. Drama.

A feisty girl is assigned to take care of a young quadriplegic, and in an astronomically surprising turn of events due to a very convenient plot (the two main characters' respective idiot boyfriend and betraying girlfriend), they fall in love. Watching the mighty "Game of Thrones" Dragon Mom play against type as a fumbling, bumbling caretaker, accompanied with the same show's Lord Tywin Lannister as the quadriplegic's dad, can be considered a refreshing, tongue-in-cheek use of actors, and the tearjerker ending (already implied by the movie's title) makes this somewhat watchable - even if you're not a romance genre fan.

Mo says:

Sunday, September 4, 2016

The Salesman (فروشنده) (2016)

Director: Asghar Farhadi. Cast: Shahab Hosseini, Taraneh Alidoosti, Babak Karimi. 125 min. Iran/France. Drama.

Opening with the metaphorical cracking of a young couple's apartment walls, we watch as their marriage unravels following the invasion of an intruder, and witness the extremes seemingly innocent people are capable of. Farhadi's new tale of ethical dilemmas, told in parallel to its characters' acting of Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman " on stage, has an insidiously slow start, but reaches a breathtaking final half-hour that makes the viewer much more uncomfortable and self-aware than his masterpiece, A Separation. You're left with the troubling question: What would I do if I was there? Farhadi has done it again.

PS: Afshin, Arshia, Azita, Farzaneh, Hooman, Majid and Shahram, ... what a memorable night.

Mo says: