Thursday, August 31, 2017

Beatriz at Dinner (2017)

Director: Miguel Arteta. Cast: Salma Hayek, John Lithgow, Connie Britton, Jay Duplass, Chloë Sevigny. 82 min. Rated R. Drama.

This reminded me of Desierto: poor small humble Mexican against big cruel megalomaniac American. Hayek as an 'alternative therapist', accidentally ends up at a dinner party where Lithgow as a real estate mogul (who may have destroyed her hometown), is a guest. The dinner goes on, and the rhetoric about this wronged girl and that mean awful man grows louder and louder. These are movies that preach to the choir, and never make the 'bad guy' in the audience (if he/she ever watches them) think twice. Forget about getting under the bad guy's skin using this approach.

Mo says:

It Comes at Night (2017)

Director: Trey Edward Shults. Cast: Joel Edgerton, Christopher Abbott, Carmen Ejogo, Riley Keough. 91 min. Rated R. Horror/Mystery.

In a horror setting, a family of three takes shelter in the forest from a contagious infectious disease that has decimated humanity, and is threatened by ... xenophobia and paranoia. And there lies the paradox: the movie's title, its trailer, and almost entire length, suggests there's a beast lurking outside, but then we realize that beast was actually a concept, living within the characters. This packaging of an intellectual, thought-provoking Trump era theme as mainstream popcorn entertainment, is a commendable effort - but the ploy risks disappointing a huge audience, who came to 'see' the beast lurking in the woods.

PS: From the director Krisha. The man is becoming a pioneer for translating social crises to horror.

Mo says:

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Harmonium (2016)

Director: Kôji Fukada. Cast: Mariko Tsutsui, Tadanobu Asano, Kanji Furutachi. 120 min. Japan/France. Unrated. Drama.

Cape Fear-like opening: ex-convict shows up at his happily-married friend's door (someone who may or may not have been involved in the convict's imprisonment), and hauntingly inserts himself into the friend's family life. But then something awful happens, and the second half becomes the friend's slow-paced, stomach-churning revenge story, where the mood is so unbearably tense, each word of dialogue takes a screaming life of its own. Except for a few lapses (e.g., damning pictures too coincidentally discovered), this film is an unforgettable exercise in how long you can maintain the tension in drama, to elevate it to horror levels.

PS: This won the "Un Certain Regard" Jury Prize at last year's Cannes Film Festival, and currently runs a 100% score on the Tomatometer. Yep ... 100%.

PPS: It's all you again, Ali. S. Thanks a bunch.

Mo says:

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Tank Girl (1995)

Director: Rachel Talalay. Cast: Lori Petty, Ice-T, Naomi Watts, Malcolm McDowell. 104 min. Rated R. Sci-fi/Comedy.

Not a translation, but an actual 'transliteration' of what a comic book would look like on screen. The lighting, colors, comical tones, and even self-ridiculing action sequences, all represent a live-action version of the post-apocalyptic Mad Max-inspired British comic book - which is why Lori Petty's absurdist approach makes her perfect for the role (as opposed to Naomi Watts in her first Hollywood gig, who takes things too seriously and loses charm). So we're really not sure what the director's own input was. And I don't understand who would dare invest on such a wacky premise anyway. This movie must've bombed.

PS: It did. Four million box office returns against a 25 million budget.

Mo says:

Monday, August 28, 2017

The Big Sick (2017)

Director: Michael Showalter. Cast: Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter, Ray Romano. 120 min. Rated R. Comedy/Romance.

Based on Kumail Nanjiani's true-life story, a Pakistani-American stand-up comedian starts (within Middle-Eastern standards) a hopeless relationship with an American girl, but then the girl falls into a coma. So the movie's title may be referring to the girl's condition ... or their relationship. The film's approach to the impossibility of the affair and current anti-Muslim sentiments, while laugh-out-loud funny, is quite realistic - most notably in the story resolution. But like any other Judd Apatow-produced comedy, it's too damn long. A few sequences could've easily been snipped out without affecting the story, or character development. Nevertheless, Holly Hunter deserves another Oscar.

Mo says:

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Neruda (2016)

Director: Pablo Larraín. Cast: Gael García Bernal, Luis Gnecco, Mercedes Morán. 107 min. Rated R. Chile/Argentina/France/Spain/USA. Biography.

There's an old unwritten adage, that to introduce a foreign cinema entity, you do so by twos - show two of the country's films, or two of a director's films ... I forget which. In any case, that applies here: before 2016, only rare Chilean films such as No made any noise. But last year, we suddenly have two (Jackie and Neruda) from the same director. Both are slow-paced character studies, both are meditatively shot, and both eventually undermine the significance of their main character. I never knew Pablo Neruda before watching this, and wasn't any more eager to do so after.

Mo says:

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Perfect Blue (1997)

Director: Satoshi Kon. Voices: Junko Iwao, Rica Matsumoto. 81 min. Japan. Animation.

At the dawn of the internet, a popular young singer switches to acting, but then finds herself stalked by a fan, accusing her of "treason". After awhile, you're not sure - are events truly happening, or is it her guilty conscience going into hyper-drive? This plot may sound commonplace, but consider: the blood/gore/sex-filled psychological thriller was made 20 years ago, is highly prophetic of the concept of internet stalking, and ... is an anime. So what may have petered out as live action (wait ... the remake actually did in 2002), is strangely effective in "cartoon" form. The wonders of animation.

Mo says:

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The Promise (2016)

Director: Terry George. Cast: Oscar Isaac, Charlotte Le Bon, Christian Bale, Shohreh Aghdashloo, James Cromwell, Jean Reno. 133 min. Rated PG-13. Spain/USA. History/Drama.

Love triangle set during the World War I Armenian genocide by the Turkish army. Long movie, lavish production design and great actors (some playing the smallest cameo roles) prove only one thing: somebody/somebodies poured lots of money to make this happen - probably on the basis of principle. But all the money in the world cannot save this boring, linear story devoid of mysteries or subtleties (Flashbacks? Plot twists?). And the impossibly coincidental ending looks more like Titanic ripoff than dramatization of history. The Armenian genocide story will be told with heartbreaking impact someday ... but that day is not today.

Mo says: