Friday, June 30, 2017

Baby Driver (2017)

Director: Edgar Wright. Cast: Ansel Elgort, Jon Bernthal, Jon Hamm, Eiza González, Lily James, Kevin Spacey. 113 min. Rated R. UK/USA. Action/Crime.

Some of the best choreographed car-chase scenes in movie history, accompanied by perfectly-timed songs, and the director's nod to Star Wars in the form an iconic hero with a Han Solo costume, could have made this one of the best action movies in a decade. But then, the story relies too heavily on coincidence, to the point where towards the end, the hero hopes for a plot vehicle (literally and figuratively), and a car appears at that most opportune time. The pitiful part is, the coincidences were completely avoidable. Oh whatever; it's a fun ride.

Mo says:

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Cars 3 (2017)

Director: Brian Fee. Voices: Owen Wilson, Cristela Alonzo, Chris Cooper, Nathan Fillion , Larry the Cable Guy, Armie Hammer, Tony Shalhoub, Bonnie Hunt, Kerry Washington, Margo Martindale, John Ratzenberger, Cheech Marin, Paul Newman. 109 min. Rated G. Animation.

I enjoyed the original Cars, didn't bother watching the sequel due to dismal reviews, and to summarize, was bored through this third installment. But then ... the demolition derby racers, with their Southern accents, are not shed in a good light, and the climactic moments of the movie has an 'American' car yelling at a 'female Latino' car: "You don't belong on this track!", and her responding: "Yes, ... I do." Although the story was obviously plotted well before the November 2016 elections, looks like Pixar is on Trump and the Trumpsters' case.

Mo says:

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Risk (2016)

Director: Laura Poitras. 92 min. Germany/USA. Documentary.

Yet another documentary on Julian Assange. Since this covers events occurring over 15 years, all the way up to Trump's election, some documented by the director herself (including footage from her recent masterpiece, Citizenfour), one assumes Poitras has snips and pieces on a variety of subjects, and edits them into whole films whenever she deems appropriate - which is why this film looks so choppy and disjointed (Lady Gaga interviewing Assange?). There are some good moments here, questioning Assange's own ego-maniacal stance, but that was already previously covered by Alex Gibney.

PS: Of course! I see this on IMDb, after writing the above review:

"Director Laura Poitras and the distributor of Risk (2016) gave misleading statements after the new version of the documentary was finally released in May 2017. In an act of re-writing film history, the official premiere at the Directors' Fortnight of the 2016 Cannes Film Festival was now suddenly declared a "work in progress" screening. This is factually incorrect, since the Directors' Fortnight screening was presented as the finished film, without any additional warning, that changes were likely to be made. This is the reason why many reviews were written and published shortly after the Cannes 2016 screening. Poitras even started to give interviews in Cannes to journalists, for example The Wrap's Steve Pond (published online on May 19, 2016), and talked about "Risk" like it was a past project. In that interview she says only positive things about Julian Assange and Jacob Appelbaum."

More weird stuff here.

Mo says:

Monday, June 12, 2017

Dangal (2016)

Director: Nitesh Tiwari. Cast: Aamir Khan, Sakshi Tanwar, Fatima Sana Shaikh. 161 min. Unrated. India. Sports/Drama.

I can't specifically point out why I loved this Disney-produced Indian movie, based on the true story of a professional wrestler who trained her daughters to fulfill his own dreams of winning gold for India - because the endearing pull of a sports movie, the tear-jerking father-daughter relationship, even the mandatory final slow-motion shot ... they're all here. But you'll still find yourself engaged and rooting for the heroes. The film would've benefited from summarizing the final matches to a shorter length, but then again, Indian movies are rarely applauded for brevity. Highly recommended for a family setting.

Mo says:

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Wonder Woman (2017)

Director: Patty Jenkins. Cast: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright, Connie Nielsen, Danny Huston, David Thewlis. 141 min. Rated PG-13. USA/China/Hong Kong. Action/Fantasy. 

Going in to watch the "first major female superhero movie", I was hoping to see one thing: a superhero whose superpowers were rooted in her femininity, not some macho masculinity. To that end, Wonder Woman delivers entirely. From the elegance and nobility Gal Gadot portrays in her robes (overshadowing Lynda Carter), to how the heroine compliments an ice-cream vendor ("You should be very proud ..."), to her final message of why humankind deserves survival (while beating the crap out of WWI Germans), this is a role no man could succeed at. Handing this to a female director was the right decision.

Mo says:

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Babette's Feast (Babettes gæstebud ) (1987)

Director: Gabriel Axel. Cast: Stéphane Audran, Bodil Kjer, Birgitte Federspiel. 102 min. Rated G. Denmark. Comedy/Drama.

Two old sisters in a small 19th-century Danish village take in a French refugee as a maid. She wins the lottery, and as a token of appreciation, throws a feast to commemorate their religious father's 100th birthday. While almost a third of this Foreign-Language Oscar winner details the dinner feast, the funny, light-hearted tone can't hide how deep it digs into the the contrast between traditionalism and modernism: how modernists absent-mindedly serve the rigid conservative, and how the conservative benefit from modernism while simultaneously (and very loudly) despising it. A message that rings true to this day.

Mo says:

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017)

Director(s): Joachim Rønning, Espen Sandberg. Cast: Johnny Depp, Javier Bardem, Geoffrey Rush, Brenton Thwaites, Kaya Scodelario, Kevin McNally, Golshifteh Farahani, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley. 129 min. Rated PG-13. Adventure/Fantasy.

After the nosedive of the third and fourth installments, someone came up with a bright idea: for the fifth episode, let's just repeat the winning elements of the first! So again we have a trio of heroes (Jack Sparrow, young man, young women) going after an army of dead pirates. But what really makes this a success, is that it opens with a thrilling Fast and Furious-type heist, Johnny Depp still manages to keep his character fresh, Javier Bardem keeps getting the best villain roles in town, and there's one popular character with a great story arc, that ends here.

PS: I didn't get Paul McCartney's joke in his cameo appearance. A skeleton ordering a beer and a mop in a bar? Oh wait ... now I get it.

Mo says:

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Becoming Bond (2017)

Director: Josh Greenbaum. Cast: George Lazenby, Kassandra Clementi, Jane Seymour, Dana Carvey. 92 min. Biography/Comedy.

A 90-minute interview with Australian "non-actor" George Lazenby (accompanied by re-enactments), the only man to play James Bond in only one movie - which some believe is the best Bond movie ever, some believe is the worst (yours truly considers OHMSS second worst, after License to Kill). The first half tells of Lazenby's younger days, the adventurous story of any youth, making you wonder where this is all going. But then the final 10 minutes hits you, telling the reason Lazenby walked away from a 7 Bond-movie deal with a $1 million signing bonus. That's a story worth telling.

Mo says: