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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Posted: Tue Mar 07, 2017 12:17 am
by Mister Tee
Because I (like all of us) was so deep in Oscar mode for most of February, I never stopped to comment on two films that failed to make the race but I wanted to see anyway because I'd read the novels on which they were based. A quick catch-up:

We'll never know if critics would have been less hostile to Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk if they'd seen it (as I did) in standard format rather than in that 120fps. What we do know is they absolutely HATED the format, and it's hard not to think their loathing slipped over into their evaluation of the film itself. Watched normally, the film struck me as hit and miss, but far from a disgrace. There were things from the novel that didn't transfer as well as one would have hoped (the whole cheerleader plot), and others that seemed a bit truncated (Billy's relationship with his sister). And there were moments along the way that I felt got close-but-not-quite to what the book had supplied. This of course brings to mind Twain's famous quote about the difference between the exact right word and the near-right word being that between lightning and a lightning bug; there were a few too many lightning bugs fluttering around. However, I thought the film also had a lot of strong moments, and on the whole it captured the things I loved most about the book -- especially the sense that the war seemed more important to the psyches of the stateside football fans than to that of the soldiers doing the fighting.

Bottom line: a speed bump in Ang Lee's career that has, by circumstance, been blown up into full-on catastrophe.

The film is definitely stronger than the other attempt at transferring a quality literary property to the screen, American Pastoral. Roth's novels in general are difficult to adapt, especially those where Nathan Zuckerman plays a significant role -- his omniscient narration is often crucial to the novel's success, and no one so far has found a way to replicate its function. Pastoral starts out well enough -- the story of the golden boy/athlete whose child undoes his entire life -- but, after the mid-point, it doesn't have very far to go, narratively, and it feels like it spins its wheels for quite a while. Ewan McGregor can be praised for his taste in choosing this book, but a more experienced director might have been more aware of what parts of it wouldn't effectively translate. He also might have cast another actor -- someone more believable as an athlete.

We all know it's hard to mount quality novels as equally effective films, but there's always hope someone'll pull it off. Next chance: The Sense of an Ending, opening this Friday.

Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Posted: Sun Mar 05, 2017 8:45 am
by anonymous1980
SILENCE
Cast: Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, Liam Neeson, Tadanobu Asano, Ciaran Hinds, Issey Ogata, Yasuke Kubozuka, Yoshi Oida, Shinya Tsukamoto.
Dir: Martin Scorsese.

This is director Martin Scorsese's adaptation of Shusaku Endo's novel about a couple of Portuguese Jesuit priests who come to Japan to look for their allegedly fallen mentor only to have their faith tested by the Shogunate determined to stamp out Christianity in Japan. I saw the Japanese adaptation of the novel made in the early '70s by director Masahiro Shinoda. That film had its strengths and weaknesses, much like this particular adaptation had its strengths and weaknesses, but different. Both films though give believers and non-believers a lot to think about. It is a profound, passionate film about faith in the face of overwhelming hardship and torture. It's beautifully photographed and remarkably acted. I honestly don't know where I would place this in the Scorsese canon. I need time to stew on this. It's certainly a film that will be talked about a long time.

Grade: A-

Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Posted: Tue Feb 28, 2017 9:13 pm
by anonymous1980
OJ: MADE IN AMERICA
Cast: OJ Simpson, et. al.
Dir: Ezra Edelman.

The now Oscar-winning documentary chronicles the rise and fall of OJ Simpson and putting it in context of the civil rights era, the LA riots and the history of racism in the U.S. I saw this film over the past couple weeks, watching bits and pieces of it during my downtime at work. I must say even if I was watching this in a movie theater in one sitting in its entire seven and a half hour running time, I would probably still find this a gripping, endlessly fascinating and compelling documentary. What's amazing that despite its length, none of it feels like filler. In fact, I wouldn't have minded it if it had gone a little longer! It even goes deeper than the already quite good Emmy-winning FX miniseries. I will also commend it being well-balanced where effort was made to have everyone's voices were heard. You don't need to watch the entire thing in one sitting but it's worth it.

Grade: A-

PATERSON
Cast: Adam Driver, Golshifteh Farahani, Barry Shebaka Henley, Rizwan Manji, William Jackson Harper, Masatoshi Nagase, Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward.
Dir: Jim Jarmusch.

Jim Jarmusch's latest film is about a week in the life of a bus driver who writes poetry. That sounds like a boring, pretentious film but surprisingly, it isn't. It is a beautiful slice of humanity as we see him try and write actually pretty darn good poems in his private notebook as he goes about his job, overhearing and encountering different people who rides his bus and hangs out in his favorite bar, as well as his life with his significant other. It is a small, quiet film yet surprisingly profound in a way that only Jim Jarmusch can make. Adam Driver is terrific in probably his best film role to date.

Grade: B+

Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Posted: Sun Feb 26, 2017 10:29 am
by anonymous1980
HACKSAW RIDGE
Cast: Andrew Garfield, Vince Vaughn, Sam Worthington, Luke Bracey, Teresa Palmer, Hugo Weaving, Rachel Griffiths.
Dir: Mel Gibson.

This film is about Desmond Doss, a combat medic who is the first conscientious objector to receive the Congressional Medal of Freedom for bravery during World War II. Much has been said about the irony of having a movie about a pacifist having graphic violence (much like Mel Gibson's other famous movie) but yeah, the film does have near-pornographic violence. It's about a man of peace yet it seems to revel in the violence, a bit more than necessary. But overall, I thought the film was pretty good. I didn't even mind the first half which some people thought was a bit cheesy. Andrew Garfield did seem to be laying it on thick with his golly-gee-willikers charm there but I thought it worked. The film overall is a fine piece of work which I was afraid to be more offensive than it was.

Grade: B.

LOVING
Cast: Joel Edgerton, Ruth Negga, Marton Csokas, Nick Kroll, Michael Shannon.
Dir: Jeff Nichols.

This film is about the true story of Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple who married during a time when mixed marriages were illegal in their home state. They fought and they won the right to their marriage. One of the things that I was surprised about this film is how quiet and subdued it was. It largely avoids the fireworks and big drama that comes with a story like this. It's both a strength and a weakness. It's to the film's credit that it doesn't try and lecture you how big of an injustice this is because it is even without them saying it. The performances are equally subdued. In fact, they almost make you feel like they could be your neighbor. Nothing extraordinary about them at all. But its low-key approach makes it tough for it to be engaging at times. However, the film manages to wring some emotions in the end. Negga and Edgerton are terrific.

Grade: B.

Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Posted: Sat Feb 25, 2017 1:07 pm
by anonymous1980
THE RED TURTLE
Cast: N/A
Dir: Michael Dudok de Wit.

This is a mostly dialogue-free film about a shipwrecked man who encounters the titular creature as he tries to escape his predicament but something strange happens which I won't be revealing here. This is one of the nominees for the Best Animated Feature Oscar. It's all part of my effort to see as many Oscar-nominated films as possible before the big night (or morning my time). This is a gorgeously animated film filled with unforgettable visuals and scenes. The fact that the film contains no dialogue just heightens the sense of magic and wonder as the fantastical narrative progresses and you're allowed to connect your own dots and interpret what you just saw. It is beautiful.

Grade: A-

HIDDEN FIGURES
Cast: Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst, Jim Parsons, Mahershala Ali, Aldis Hodge, Glenn Powell.
Dir: Theodore Melfi.

This is the fascinating true story of three black women who are instrumental during the 1960's space race and the NASA space program. I was actually dreading seeing this film. I thought this was gonna be like the "racism is bad" type movies crafted for white guilt that sometimes gets nominated at the Oscars like The Blind Side and The Help. Well, it is, sort of but thankfully, it's not at all egregious because it contains less of the flaws and pitfalls of those two films. The film does indeed tend to be on the nose with its "racism is bad" and "sexism is bad" message but the cast is very likable and the story is quite compelling. As far as "inspirational true story" movies go, this is a really good one.

Grade: B+

20TH CENTURY WOMEN
Cast: Annette Bening, Elle Fanning, Greta Gerwig, Lucas Jade Zumann, Billy Crudup.
Dir: Mike Mills.

A middle-aged woman with a teenage son is worried about him growing up without a man and two of the ladies in her neighborhood try to help out in that aspect. I'm surprised I loved this film as much as I did. Precious indie films about quirky families can get annoying after a while but this film has plenty of humor, warmth and intelligence that it doesn't come off as being too twee. Annette Bening gives one of her career-best performances in this one. I'm especially impressed at how much she's aging gracefully. She is matched by both Greta Gerwig and Elle Fanning. The ending was also surprisingly moving. Definitely highly recommended.

Grade: A-

THE LOVE WITCH
Cast: Samantha Robinson, Gian Keys, Laura Waddell, Jeffrey Vincent Parise.
Dir: Anna Biller.

A witch who has a nasty habit of killing men she loves moves into town. Oh, man. I so wanted to love this movie. I love what it's doing. It's paying tribute to 1970's sexploitation/grindhouse horror flicks and with a little side of giallo complete with deliberately terrible acting, cheap looking sets and plenty of sex and nudity. It actually feels like it was made in the 1970's. But I felt the film was a tad too long and the initial novelty of it all quickly wears out because I felt the main narrative isn't that compelling despite the presence of a lot of interesting ideas. But producer-director-writer-costume designer-production designer-editor-composer Anna Biller is definitely a talent and I love the fact that this film exists. I respect what it was doing but I wish I loved it more.

Grade: B-

Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Posted: Thu Feb 23, 2017 8:49 pm
by anonymous1980
MANCHESTER BY THE SEA
Cast: Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, Lucas Hedges, Kyle Chandler, Gretchen Mol, Matthew Broderick, Tate Donovan.
Dir: Kenneth Lonergan

After his brother dies, a janitor with a tragic past is tasked to care for his teenage nephew. This is a film where a lot of sad, tragic things happen. One of the things that I loved about it is that never wallows in it too much. A lesser director and writer would have tried to maximize the misery and the tears and thought there are emotion and tears in this, Kenneth Lonergan's intelligent script peppers this story of grief with humor and humanity. It is brought to life by an excellent cast led by Casey Affleck, delivering the performance of his career. Overall, the film didn't exactly blow me away (I might have liked it better if I wasn't spoiled about a plot point), but it is a fine piece of work.

Grade: B+

Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Posted: Tue Feb 21, 2017 12:45 pm
by anonymous1980
13TH
Cast: N/A.
Dir: Ava DuVernay.

The title refers to the 13th Amendment which freed black people from slavery but contains a caveat that though all men are free and equal, prisoners are not and how people in charge have exploited this loophole throughout the years in an effort to keep minorities in check. This film makes that a jumping off point to explore mass incarcerations and institutionalized racism in the U.S. government. Though the film felt a bit repetitive and seems to hammer points a bit too much, it is undeniably a compelling watch. I applaud the fact that it's non-partisan about this issue. It doesn't let the Democrats off the hook and even interviewed a few conservatives to get their side. (Surprised Newt Gingrich came off as a reasonable human being for once here). It may be imperfect but it must be seen.

Grade: B+

Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Posted: Sun Feb 19, 2017 4:24 pm
by ITALIANO
Greg wrote:
ITALIANO wrote:
What I meant was you call for someone to have views that go against the consensus, but, do not appreciate it when someone has views that go against your own.


Yes, Greg, I know what you meant (why have I got into this?!), and I realize - again - that you are right and that often the consensus is better. Well, there could even be a - how shall I put it - remotely RATIONAL way of being original, but you don't need to worry.

Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Posted: Sun Feb 19, 2017 4:09 pm
by Greg
ITALIANO wrote:
Greg wrote:
ITALIANO wrote:But maybe one day you could hate a movie which others love, or the opposite. I mean - it CAN happen. Just this.


On the other hand, I remember you being fairly bemused when I said I thought Last Tango In Paris was overrated.


True. Yes, ok, forget what I said - let's stick to the consensus.


What I meant was you call for someone to have views that go against the consensus, but, do not appreciate it when someone has views that go against your own.

Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Posted: Sun Feb 19, 2017 4:00 pm
by ITALIANO
Greg wrote:
ITALIANO wrote:But maybe one day you could hate a movie which others love, or the opposite. I mean - it CAN happen. Just this.


On the other hand, I remember you being fairly bemused when I said I thought Last Tango In Paris was overrated.


True. Yes, ok, forget what I said - let's stick to the consensus.

Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Posted: Sun Feb 19, 2017 3:49 pm
by Greg
ITALIANO wrote:But maybe one day you could hate a movie which others love, or the opposite. I mean - it CAN happen. Just this.


On the other hand, I remember you being fairly bemused when I said I thought Last Tango In Paris was overrated.

Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Posted: Sun Feb 19, 2017 10:02 am
by ITALIANO
anonymous1980 wrote:There are films that people despise that I champion, Showgirls for example


I see. Mmm... Ok, well, don't worry then - go on as before.

Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Posted: Sun Feb 19, 2017 8:22 am
by anonymous1980
ITALIANO wrote:
anonymous1980 wrote:
ITALIANO wrote:Anonymous, you are definitely a great guy and very intelligent - but really, the moment you write something which is even vaguely against the "general consensus", which doesn't feel just like a summary of what mainstream critics say about a certain movie, which flows naturally from your life experiences rather than from something you and everyone else have read - well, I swear that I will open a bottle of champagne. I'm not joking - the bottle is ready and for years now I've been reading your reviews day after day looking forward to finally open it. It's still closed, but who knows...


What do you want me to do? Hate the movie when I loved it and was moved by the film?


Of course not. I'm sure that you are very honest - as you must be. It's not that. But maybe one day you could hate a movie which others love, or the opposite. I mean - it CAN happen. Just this.


It has been known to happen on occasion. There are films that are considered classics by a lot of people that I did not care for: John Hughes's teen movies for example. There are films that people despise that I champion, Showgirls and Tim Burton's version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for example.

Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Posted: Sun Feb 19, 2017 7:49 am
by ITALIANO
anonymous1980 wrote:
ITALIANO wrote:Anonymous, you are definitely a great guy and very intelligent - but really, the moment you write something which is even vaguely against the "general consensus", which doesn't feel just like a summary of what mainstream critics say about a certain movie, which flows naturally from your life experiences rather than from something you and everyone else have read - well, I swear that I will open a bottle of champagne. I'm not joking - the bottle is ready and for years now I've been reading your reviews day after day looking forward to finally open it. It's still closed, but who knows...


What do you want me to do? Hate the movie when I loved it and was moved by the film?


Of course not. I'm sure that you are very honest - as you must be. It's not that. But maybe one day you could hate a movie which others love, or the opposite. I mean - it CAN happen. Just this.

Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Posted: Sun Feb 19, 2017 7:08 am
by anonymous1980
ITALIANO wrote:Anonymous, you are definitely a great guy and very intelligent - but really, the moment you write something which is even vaguely against the "general consensus", which doesn't feel just like a summary of what mainstream critics say about a certain movie, which flows naturally from your life experiences rather than from something you and everyone else have read - well, I swear that I will open a bottle of champagne. I'm not joking - the bottle is ready and for years now I've been reading your reviews day after day looking forward to finally open it. It's still closed, but who knows...


What do you want me to do? Hate the movie when I loved it and was moved by the film?