Saturday, October 5, 2019

Movie Roundup 10/5 (Heist, Constantine, Starman, Between Two Ferns: The Movie, Equilibrium, Ad Astra, Obvious Child, Leave No Trace, Transporter 2, A Nightmare On Elm Street, The Lure, The Dixie Chicks: Shut Up and Sing)

Here's a roundup of recently watched films:

Heist (2001) directed by David Mamet - This is an extraordinarily good take on the heist/con genre. I’ve seen several Mamet movies, House of Games, Homicide, State and Main and a couple he wrote but didn’t direct, Glengary Glen Ross and Wag the Dog. I don’t remember the last well enough to comment, but the others have masterful plotting and dialog. This proved no exception. Good dialog is one of the things I like most in movies. Like his other films, this takes a very dim view of human nature; everyone betrays and people are mostly greedy and bad. Hard to argue, bleak as it seems. Highly Recommended.

Constantine (2005) directed by Francis Lawrence - I’m glad I saw this before reading any of the source material. I’d come across John Constantine in The Sandman and Swamp Thing graphic novels, but hadn’t read any Hellblazer until a week or two after watching this. Without the weight of expectations based on its source, I think this is a really great horror fantasy about a wizard who fights both angels and demons. Highly Recommended.

Starman (1984) directed by John Carpenter - It took me a while to get past Jeff Bridges stilted delivery, but was charmed once I did. Not at all what I expected out of a Carpenter film. Recommended.

Between Two Ferns: The Movie (2019) directed by Scott Aukerman - I was mostly mixed on this until I saw the outtakes at the end. The plot is fairly thin; a road movie in which Galifinakis has to interview a certain number of celebrities to earn a talk show. It’s a mostly entertaining excuse to string together a bunch of clips of the show. Always glad to see Lauren Lapkus in something. The more I've thought about it and gone back and watched clips, the more I like it. Recommended.

Equilibrium (2002) directed by Kurt Wimmer - A post-Matrix take on Brave New World type material. It has its moments, but largely falls flat. Pass.

Ad Astra (2019) directed by James Gray - This was fantastic. A heart of darkness trip into space to deal with both daddy issues and the felt absence of God. A handful of great action scenes, otherwise a slow ramp of tension mostly hinging on how well you like Brad Pitt’s performance in the lead. That performance completely worked for me, as did the movie. Top 5 of 2019 at this point, easily. Highly Recommended.

Obvious Child (2014) directed by Gillian Robespierre - I haven’t seen this since it was in the theater. It’s a feminist take on the raunchy romantic comedy. It centers around an abortion. An abortion comedy would be a hard sell with a less charming lead than Jenny Slate. This holds up well 5 years later. Recommended.

Leave No Trace (2018) directed by Debra Granik - I've long been a fan of Granik’s rural noir Winter's Bone, but somehow I didn’t see this last year. It is captivating. It somehow was and was not what I expected. An ex-soldier with some level of PTSD is illegally living a survivalist life in a state park with his teenage daughter. They are discovered, put into housing and then leave. It has an ending I didn't see coming, but was the only appropriate one. Two fully realized characters, with impeccable performances. This is a masterpiece. I still give the edge to Winter's Bone between the two films I've seen of hers, but both are nearly perfect. Canon-Worthy.

Transporter 2 (2005) directed by  Louis Leterrier - This is a ridiculous sequel to a ridiculous movie. I’ve been on a bit of Jason Statham kick lately. This is as big and dumb as any of them. Well before The Fast and Furious movies started jumping cars from building to building, Transporter 2 did it. The CGI is much older looking, but The Transporter also has a scene in which Statham jumps and barrel rolls his car to use a hook on a chain to scrape a bomb off the bottom of the vehicle. The bad guys lack only mustaches to twirl; they are a sexed up Boris and Natasha. Cartoonishly evil. It’s really dumb fun. Recommended.

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) directed by Wes Craven - Somehow I never saw this until it screened at a retro horror event a nearby theater is doing this month. I expected a generic slasher, but it was more of a horror fantasy (though one that has slasher elements to it). I had always assumed this was more salacious than it actually is. It is a very good horror movie, and I’m glad that the first time I saw it was on the big screen. Recommended.

The Lure (2015) directed by Agnieszka Smoczynska - This is a lurid feminist take on the Little Mermaid Story by way of a punk/disco horror musical. Two mermaid sisters come to shore and join a band that plays in really seedy nightclubs. One of them falls in love with a human, and the story plays out like the fairy tale; but a desanitized version that puts all the unsavory subtext back in. It is gory. It feels a little exploitative, but it is largely about exploitation, so that’s no knock on it. It’s visually stunning and has so much energy. Highly Recommended (with a very heavy content warning).

The Dixie Chicks: Shut Up and Sing (2006) directed by Barbara Kopple, Cecilia Peck: I’ve never listened to the Dixie Chicks much beyond their hits. I did remember the controversy surrounding their comments about the Iraq War, though, and when I saw an online discussion of this documentary I watched it. It’s a fascinating mix between damage control and their decision to stand by their remarks. Human motivation is always complex; it is rare that something happens for only one reason. It is also rare to see work that admits this. I didn't expect to find that tension in a Dixie Chicks documentary, but it is there. Recommended.

No comments:

Post a Comment