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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Posted: Sun Aug 20, 2017 7:45 am
by Precious Doll
Okri wrote:
Is there anything more depressing than realizing just how little distribution the Palme D'Or winners get these days?

It sometimes feels like Cannes is becoming nothing more that a red carpet event for show pony movie stars.

Whilst in the past some winners have been little seen such as Under the Sun of Satan (1987), The Eel (1997) & Eternity and a Day (1998) it has become a more common occurrence with the last 3 years winners (not counting 2017 as The Square has yet to open) getting scant and much delayed releases: Winter Sleep, Dheepan and I, Daniel Blake.

I was only able to even see Dheepan on the big screen at our annual French Film Festival. Since then it has been regulated to pay TV and V.O.D. Not even a DVD release.

Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Posted: Sat Aug 19, 2017 11:01 am
by Okri
The Original BJ wrote:Finally caught up with Dheepan, after what seems like an eternity after its Cannes win. Has anyone else seen it?

Is there anything more depressing than realizing just how little distribution the Palme D'Or winners get these days? I lucked out and saw it in 2015 at my local film festival (I adore Audiard's work) and just got the Criterion Blu-ray a couple days ago, but between that 22 month period, I wouldn't have had the opportunity to see it normally.

As you've surmised by the fact that I bought it, I liked it a great deal and it's still ensconced in my 2015 top ten. While I agree the ending, in particular, was disappointing, I thought the rest was quite strong. I found the way it tackled dislocation and trauma fascinating and I didn't dislike the swerve too much because it felt grounded in said trauma.

It wouldn't have been my Palme winner (Son of Saul, without a doubt) but I'm glad Audiard has one.

Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Posted: Sun Aug 13, 2017 8:36 am
by Precious Doll
The Original BJ wrote:Finally caught up with Dheepan, after what seems like an eternity after its Cannes win. Has anyone else seen it?

Yes in March last year, making it two duds in a row from the once interesting Jacques Audiard. I found the whole thing pretty phoney and nothing more than a chunk of plot devices masquerading as some sort of meaningly story. Hard to believe it is from the same man who has given the world such memorable original inventive films like Read My Lips & A Self Made Hero.

Kalieaswari Srinivasan was the only saving grace in the film for me and the only thing about the film resembling any kind of reality. Filed under the list of undeserving Cannes winners.

Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Posted: Sun Aug 13, 2017 12:23 am
by The Original BJ
Finally caught up with Dheepan, after what seems like an eternity after its Cannes win. Has anyone else seen it?

It's an interesting film, at least for most of its running time. The basic premise is set into motion almost immediately, as a man, woman, and child with no connection to one another pretend to be a family to emigrate from Sri Lanka after the civil war and start a new life in France. The bulk of the movie is an absorbing kitchen sink drama about these dislocated characters struggling to find their way in a new country, with extra conflict provided by the fact that the members of this self-made family are all basically strangers to one another. And both adult actors, as well as the young actress playing the daughter, are all quite strong.

But I thought the last act took a pretty hard left turn -- once it morphed into an action movie I found it considerably less interesting, particularly because this story turn just didn't seem grounded in the tone that had been set up to that point. And then the final scene felt completely unearned, resolving the story's central conflicts in a manner I found pretty lazy.

Still, there's much that I liked in the earlier portions, I just wish the filmmakers had come up with a resolution that felt more of a piece with that movie.

Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Posted: Wed Jul 19, 2017 1:05 pm
by dws1982
Doing some major 2016 catch-up:

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates
Not sure why I watched this. Maybe Zac Efron goodwill from We Are Your Friends. At any rate, this movie is completely useless, wastes some talented actors, and goes way over the top trying to be outrageous.

Never been a huge fan of Jim Jarmusch, but I thought this was excellent. Part of my love was purely on a filmmaking level, in the way it achieved an effect without making a big show of it. I liked its approach to the Adam Driver character, the way it made him a genuinely kind and likable person without making him seem un-human. Driver definitely deserves a lot of credit for this as well. I liked that it never tried to sell Paterson as any kind of a masterful poet, but it didn't sell his average-ness as anything close to a laughing point. I also think the portrayal of the wife character is pretty masterfully handled; the way she has a different career goal almost daily, the way she's ready to spend money that they probably don't need to spend, the way she cooks weird foods that her husband doesn't like, but he'll never let on, and we can understand many other directors and actresses would've mishandled that character.

The Innocents
An important movie because it's such a rare beast: It's a serious look at issues of religious faith, it's about women, and it's for the most part made by women (director, three of the writers, cinematographer, editor). You see movies about men and their faith struggles all the time (just last year, Silence and Hacksaw Ridge), but this one deserves attention for this alone. The movie itself is very good, I think. Similarly to Ida, it deals with a Polish nun (in this case, several), with the devastation of World War II still in the background. It even features Agata Kulesza. I'm going to be sketchy on plot specifics, because I do think it will play better if you go in fairly fresh--and I do hope some people take a chance on this; it's on DVD and streaming on Amazon Prime--but essentially it plays out the question of how people of religious faith react when they face something so evil and traumatizing that it shakes their world off its axis. If the movie doesn't exactly give a quick or easy answer to that question, it's because the answer looks different for each person.

Love & Friendship
I'm a big Whit Stillman fan, and as with most of his movies, I definitely feel I need to see this again before I give a solid verdict. Stillman gets a lot of credit for dialogue, but I think he deserves mention for his attention to detail. I loved being in this world though, much more than I usually do with Austen adaptations, and the ensemble was top-to-bottom excellent.

Not going to be go-to Spielberg, but then again fantasy-land Spielberg is never my favorite mode of his (well, except A.I., but that's a very dark fantasy). To me Spielberg's strengths, especially in his most recent films, is in character interactions; when I think of War Horse, I think of that brief interaction between Jeremy Irvine and Niels Arestrup near the end; with Bridge of Spies, it's those scenes between Hanks and Rylance; with Lincoln, it's any number of scenes, but a more obscure scene that stands out is Daniel Day-Lewis and David Warshofsky, where Lincoln is trying to convince him to vote for the amendment, and Warshofsky ultimately stumbles over the line "I am a prejudiced man". You don't get as many of thost scenes in a movie like this, but when you do get Mark Rylance and Ruby Barnhill together, the movie is much more compelling than it is in those scenes where it's about giants fighting and such. There are plenty of great moments, and Spielberg builds a world in a way that few other filmmakers even approach. Rylance is excellent; if people complain all the time about Andy Serkis not getting nominated for this or that motion capture performance, they really should've said something about Rylance (although I know it's not motion capture in exactly the same way that Gollum is, it's still visual-effects enhanced).

The Childhood of a Leader
If you look at this on a pure plot level, it's absurd. I'll grant that. If you take out the bookends, which show the protagonist as a future Fascist leader of some sort, you've essentially just got an evil child movie, which is what the movie essentially is. The child is born to an American father and French mother; the father is a diplomat in France hammering out some of the negotiations that would help create the Treaty of Versailles. The symbolism is pretty thick then: America and France are giving birth to a Fascist brute, just as the Allies (which included America and France) contributed to the birth of Fascism with their unduly harsh terms of surrender at Versailles. Of course history is complex than that, but this movie isn't necessarily claiming to have all the answers. But let's throw plot aside for a minute, and talk about what's really important: This is, without question, one of the most assured directorial debuts in years. Brady Corbet shows more ambition and creativity here on his first film than many directors do on their tenth film.

Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Posted: Sun Apr 23, 2017 9:04 am
by Big Magilla
Oh, boy.

The three worst films I've see recently have been Paterson, The Founder and Split, the latter officially a 2017 release, but one that had festival showings in 2016.

I watched Split despite my misgivings about any Shyamalan film since The Sixth Sense, so I guess you could I got what I deserved, but the other two!

I've liked Adam Driver in other things, notably Midnight Special and Silence, and I really liked Jarmusch's last film, Only Lovers Left Alive, and with the mostly strong reviews, I was expecting something decent from Paterson, but what a tedious bunch of nothing it turned out to be. It was Groudhog Day without the yucks.

Maybe Harvey Weinstein was initially attracted to The Founder because he saw himself in Ray Kroc, but I suspect after the 2016 Presidential election, the only person it reminded him of was Trump, which may be why he wanted to dump it as fast as he could.

It didn't take me long to make the obvious comparisons. The only difference between the two hustlers is that whereas Trump loves his name and loves to see it on every building he owns, Kroc hated his name and had no illusions about anyone wanting to come to a Kroc's for a quick meal. That's why he stole the McDonald's name from the brothers. First he signed a partnership deal with them, fast-talked his way into various banks financing his buildings across the country, then incorporated the name McDonald's before splitting with the McDonald brothers, allowing them to keep only their flagship restaurant in San Bernardino, but forcing them to remove the name McDonald's, then opening his own restaurant across the street and driving them out of business. To his credit Keaton doesn't try to make the guy lovable, but there's no there "there". It's all about greed.

As far as the Speedee vs. Weinstein suit goes, it was a violation of their deal for Weinstein to release Gold a week later, but did they do anything to promote Gold over The Founder? I think Gold died an even quicker death at the box-office. Speedee will probably win on the contract violation, but how much will they collect? I suspect not much.

Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Posted: Sat Apr 22, 2017 5:35 pm
by dws1982
Mister Tee wrote:Why did Harvey Weinstein so obviously throw this film away? Part of it is clearly that Harvey only goes for the maudlin vote these days, and Lion was more in that Imitation Game range.

From what I read, they were in too bad financial shape to release or market anything properly. The production company is suing the Weinsteins for breach of contract; the original contract was the TWC wouldn't release another movie within a week of The Founder, but they put Gold out the very next week.

Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Posted: Sat Apr 22, 2017 2:02 pm
by Mister Tee
Catching up on a few late entries:

I don't want to oversell The Founder -- it's got plenty of built-in genre limitations -- but I have to say I'm astounded a director like Hancock, whose work at best has been at Disney-level (and at worst, like The Blind Side, gag-inducing), could turn out something so generally engaging and relatively honest. The film gets off to a slow-ish start -- the first 10-15 minutes feel dreary -- but once Kroc gets to San Bernardino, things hit their stride and move briskly. The demonstration of how the McDonald brothers evolved their system is a pleasure to watch (no matter how you may loathe what they've done to the America diet), and the subsequent story, of how Kroc slowly swiped it away from them, is gripping and rather clear-eyed: Kroc is hardly lionized, but he also isn't made a purely hissable villain -- his own motivations are given their day in court.

It's hard to believe this film couldn't have had some greater impact with more studio support -- even totally dumped into theatres in January, it managed a higher gross than some biopics with a louder profile. Surely Keaton would have had a shot at the lower end of the best actor slate. Why did Harvey Weinstein so obviously throw this film away? Part of it is clearly that Harvey only goes for the maudlin vote these days, and Lion was more in that Imitation Game range. But I wonder if he also saw in Ray Kroc a character uncomfortably close to himself: a guy who runs rampant over the creativity of others and, through loud marketing strategies, makes himself the center of attention using someone else's idea? Did it feel too much like looking in the mirror, and cause him to bury it?

I'll also echo the praise people have offered for A Monster Calls. For a movie with fantasy elements, it feels like a very grown-up piece: certainly no film truly aiming for the children's market would have focused so firmly on death and loss, how they're experienced by the young. The film is full of its protagonist's rage, and feels very honest throughout. And, visually, it's pretty exceptional; how could the production design/visual effects folk have not given it a shot?

Finally, Paterson. I've seen a number of Jim Jarmusch films over the past three decades, and, while I admire his willingness to stay within his realm, and can genuinely appreciate his achievements, I have to say in the end they're just a bit too wee for me to work up any enthusiasm. There's nothing whatever wrong with with Paterson -- I stayed with it all the way, and enjoyed individual moments. But it was clear from early on that nothing much was going to happen, and if anything out of the ordinary did (the bus breakdown, the dog/notebook encounter), nothing much would be made of it. It pretty much comes down to the old "If this is the sort of thing you like, you'll like this sort of thing". I'm happy enough that Jarmusch is out there doing his thing that's so different from anyone else's, but I'm never going to be excited to see what he does next.

As for Adam Driver, who I excoriated in a earlier post -- since then, I've been informed that he was extremely personally nice to someone I'm close to, so I'm more inclined to give him a chance. And I don't find him actively offensive here, as I have in the past. But I don't see anything special in his performance, and the LA Critics' best actor prize seems of a piece with its James Franco/Spring Breakers citation -- a "we can go edgier than you any day" choice.

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
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
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-

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
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.

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
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-

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+

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-

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
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
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+