Sunday, August 25, 2019

Movie Roundup

I’ve been watching a ton of movies lately and haven’t taken the time to write about them, so here’s a little bit of a round up in more or less reverse order:

Ready or Not (2019) directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett- This was a really fun horror/thriller/dark comedy about a woman who marries into a gaming dynasty only to find that she has to play a life threatening game of hide and seek. It’s a little gory, completely compelling and very funny. Samara Weaving is amazing in it. Andie McDowell turns in her most convincing performance. Highly Recommended.

LA Confidential (1997) directed by Curtis Hanson- This is one of my all time top ten movies. I will write more about it the next time I watch it. Suffice it to say, it is Canon, and one of the best crime noir movies ever.

A Vigilante (2018) directed by Sarah Daggar-Nickson- Olivia Wilde stars as a woman who, after going through trauma herself goes on the road to help other women (and in one memorable instance, two children) out of abusive situations. This is a pretty good and very violent movie. Not sure if it would be cathartic to someone who had gone through that kind of trauma. I suspect so, but it is unflinching. Recommended.

Sword of Trust- (2019) directed by Lynn Shelton- This is weird but good one. Marc Maron plays a pawn shop owner. A woman inherits a sword that her grandfather claims proves the South won the Civil War. She, her partner, Marc Maron’s character and his employee then try to con some conspiracy theorists. There is a lot of effective broad comedy, and some pivots into genuine pathos. The transitions between the two can be rough at times, but both are effective. It falls a little into the syndrome of all the southerners being dumb and the outsiders being intelligent. I loved it, flaws and all, though. Maron’s performance is incredible. Highly Recommended.

Short Cuts (1993) directed by Robert Altman- I’m a little mixed on Robert Altman. I hated MASH. Thought it was incredibly mean spirited. I loved McCabe and Mrs Miller, an obvious antecedent to my favorite TV show Deadwood. I remember liking Gosford Park and Nashville when I saw them, but it’s been long enough that I can’t really comment without rewatching them at some point. Short Cuts is somehow both repellent and compelling. I’m leaning closer to compelling with more thought. Recommended (with a little hesitation).

Fast and the Furious and 2 Fast 2 Furious- I had only seen Hobbs and Shaw and Fast Five before. I decided to go back and rewatch as the franchise is having its poptimist critical moment. Way too much macho posturing for my taste, but otherwise, these are really fun action movies. I’m not even a car guy and I enjoyed these. Recommended.

Wendy and Lucy (2008) directed by Kelly Reichardt- I saved this as my last Reichardt film because I feared that it would veer into misery porn. Fortunately it didn’t. It is an incredibly sad film, though. It taps into economic anxiety by examining one person’s experience (Wendy, played by Michelle Williams) as she goes, with her dog, to try to find a lucrative summer job in Alaska. It’s as slowly paced as Reichardt’s other work, and absolutely devastating. Highly Recommended.

The Amazing Johnathan Documentary (2019) directed by Benjamin Berman- This is either a moving documentary about a dying comedy magician screwing with a documentarian, or an attempt at Andy Kaufman-esque provocation. Either way, I came out liking the Amazing Johnathan a little more. If I knew how much of it was staged, I could get a better bead on it. Still, it’s very entertaining, and is on Hulu. Recommended.

The Bigamist (1953) directed by Ida Lupino- This was a very good melodrama about a travelling salesman who marries two women and how he gets caught. I didn’t like it as well as Lupino’s The Hitch-Hiker, but it is definitely worth seeing. Recommended.

Death at a Funeral (2007) directed by Frank Oz- As Ebert said in his review of the remake, this is largely in poor taste. I cringed several times during the movie. But it is one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen. Worth watching for Alan Tudyk’s performance and the second eulogy scene alone. Highly Recommended.

Mur Murs (1981) directed by Agnes Varda- Varda is a master. Her Cleo from 5 to 7 and Vagabond are both masterpieces. This works as a sort of companion piece to the other film I’ve seen by her; 2017’s Faces, Places. This one is an examination of a sector of the art world I’ve never encountered before; mural paintings in late-70s/early-80s LA. It’s a fascinating documentary. I'm looking forward to seeing more of her work. Recommended

River of Grass (1994) directed by Kelly Reichardt- Reichardt’s debut film takes a little while to get going. The first 30 minutes or so is a blending of the slow cinema that she mastered later with Terrance Malick style voice over to mixed effect. Once the story kicks in, it becomes a very good crime/dark comedy/slow thriller. I like her later work better, but this was an excellent first feature. Recommended.

Certain Women (2016) directed by Kelly Reichardt- I really loved the first section of this, and was then distracted as I expected the other two sections to intertwine with each other more. Once I realized that it was more of an anthology film of very loosely connected stories and thought about it in those terms, I liked it more. I look forward to watching it again with that in mind. Highly Recommended.

Go (1999) directed by Doug Liman- This is one of the best “in the Tarantino mode” 90s films that came out post Pulp Fiction. It’s got a couple cringey moments, but on the whole is an excellent criminals in over their head movie. I will watch this many more times, I’m sure. Highly Recommended.

Howard the Duck (1986) directed by Willard Huyck- This is wild. I can get why it didn’t hit at the time. It’s deeply weird and way sleazier than I expected. However, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t really enjoy watching it. Strange, but not as horrifically bad as its reputation would suggest. It’s no masterpiece, but it is a ton of fun. Recommended.

The Farewell (2019) directed by Lulu Wang- This was a great tearjerker of a movie without being manipulative. That’s a fine line to walk, and it does it perfectly. Awkwafina is great in the lead role of a young Chinese woman raised in America who is close to her grandmother who still lives in China. The grandmother is diagnosed with cancer, and the family decides to keep the diagnosis from her. Awkwafina’s character has a hard time accepting this. In turns funny and moving, this is one of my favorite movies of 2019 so far. Highly Recommended.

The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology (2012) directed by Sophie Fiennes- This is essentially an hour and a half lecture by Slavoj Žižek about the dangers of ideology, using examples from films. As he is using a particular film scene in the lecture, he is staged in a set that resembles the scene. It’s a clever way to stage a lecture, and the subject is important. I’d be lying, though if I said it didn’t really drag at moments. Low Recommendation, or Pass.

Dagon (2001) directed by Stuart Gordan- This is one of the most actually horrifying horror movies I’ve seen. The mood and setting are just perfect. It’s based on Shadow Over Innsmouth by HP Lovecraft. It’s very gory; in a couple points it was well beyond my comfort zone for content in movies. That said, horror should horrify. This does the trick. Recommended (with a very heavy content warning).

Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw (2019) directed by David Leitch- Leitch was the director of the excellent Atomic Blonde, and co-director of the original John Wick. If you say he’s directing an action movie with The Rock and Jason Statham, I’m automatically in. What I wasn’t prepared for was (despite her great performance in the latest Mission Impossible) was Vanessa Kirby stealing the show. This is big dumb fun of the first order. I can see why some folks might be put off by it, but I enjoyed it greatly for what it was. Recommended.

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