Saturday, April 29, 2017

Colossal (2016)

Director: Nacho Vigalondo. Cast: Anne Hathaway, Jason Sudeikis, Tim Blake Nelson, Dan Stevens. 109 min. Rated R. Canada/Spain. Fantasy/Drama.

An alcoholic woman realizes the movements of a monster wreaking havoc and destroying lives in Seoul, actually mirrors her own, walking in a suburban NY park. So early on in the movie, the metaphor is obvious. But while this could have become a powerful statement on alcoholism and domestic abuse, the comedic moments somewhat trivialize the gravity of the subject matter, and the story not abiding by its own rules (the monster/robot in Seoul should only exist within the confines of the park) further weakens the impact. A great opportunity, lost to box-office sensibilities.

Mo says:

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Your Name. (Kimi no na wa) (2016)

Director: Makoto Shinkai. 106 min. Rated PG. Japan. Animation.

A teenage boy and girl, distant from each other (both location-wise, and other-wise), suddenly start switching bodies for an entire day, every few days. But this not a simple Freaky Friday situation: the two incorporate their characters into the other person's life, making this a switch of gender characteristics, not just mere bodies, and an animation wildly open to interpretation. My take, was a painful presentation of "out of sight, out of mind": no matter how long and close you've been with a person, no matter how hard you hold on, they start vanishing from your memory after their gone.

PS: This was Japan's highest grossing film of 2016, and the highest grossing anime film of all time worldwide.

PPS: Thanks again, Ali S! Although I was hoping that ending wouldn't happen ...

Mo says:

Power Rangers (2017)

Director: Dean Israelite. Cast: Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, RJ Cyler, Bryan Cranston, Elizabeth Banks. 124 min. Rated PG-13. Canada/USA. Action/Fantasy.

While possibly entertaining for kids, this is another good example of packaged, formulaic Hollywood. No effort to inject any new concepts, no deviation from any previously well-trodden paths. And the way they hide Elizabeth Banks under heavy make-up or only use Bryan Cranston's voice, makes you feel they're concerned employing a high-profile actor like Brando in a superhero movie like Superman was not a good idea after all. I never watched the 90s Power Rangers, but if this story is new to me and I'm still bored, trying to imagine how crushed the fans must be.

Mo says:

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: