Sunday, March 05, 2017

Ten Mini Reviews

Usually at about this time each year, the amount of movies that I have gotten to has become completely overwhelming, and I am ridiculously behind on my reviews.  It's an unfortunate side effect of having my busiest time of year at work coupled with my busiest time of year in my personal life coupled with having the busiest time of the year on the blog.  Suffice it to say, it starts to get to me and while I always want to give every single movie I see its due, I also don't think I can get to all of these while the memory is still there for me to properly create a full review.  So with apologies to the filmmakers, I'm going to be doing short reviews here; we'll still have full reviews of all of the remaining Oscar nominees I haven't discussed from 2016, as well as A Monster Calls because I feel like I owe it to you to explain why I loved it so much, but these movies are going to just get the one paragraph.  If you want more of my thoughts, I'll gladly interact in the comments (incentive!)

(Spoilers for the films may be ahead)

Dark Passage
Thoughts: The least viewed of the Bacall/Bogart pictures, it weirdly has the most famous gimmick of the bunch, where we have a "subjective camera" technique seeing the film almost entirely from Bogart's point-of-view as he escapes from prison.  The film is solid, if predictable (shocker-the third most famous cast member is the real criminal!), and I loved the way that Bacall's performance is both a brazen young woman and completely lovestruck (few people did that better than her).  Still, once the gimmick is over it's never quite as strong as the top half-part of me wished they'd have stuck with it, even if that would have meant Bogart only in voiceover.
Ranking: 3/5 stars


Thoughts: I had sworn to myself I wasn't ever going to see a Ryan Reynolds movie again, but somehow he and Jason Bateman continue to haunt me and I end up stuck with them in front of me even when I didn't want to do so.  Here it was me buying the last-minute hype that Deadpool could land in a major category (or at least Best Makeup) and I ended up stuck in a boring, tired pile of garbage that succumbs to the same cliches that it tries to disprove.  Reynolds may have found a role tailor-made for him, but that doesn't mean he's a good actor.
Ranking: 2/5 stars

Dirty 30

Thoughts: Arguably the film I wanted to review fully the most (give or take Paterson), this film, while not a follow-up to Camp Takota, is at the very least a sequel in terms of who is involved.  The Holy Trinity of YouTube come back, but this time it's Mamrie at the center and all the better for it as she's the most naturally-gifted of the actresses at the center.  Hollywood, in desperate need of a romantic comedy lead, is foolish if they aren't taking advantage of an actress who can sell even some juvenile humor with aplomb-when the script works for her, this is genuinely just a good movie-no YouTube curve needed.
Ranking: 3/5 stars

Eye in the Sky

Thoughts: A taut thriller, the last real performance from Alan Rickman before his untimely death (I'm not counting Alice in Wonderland 2), the film is intriguing and actually quite watchable; it's the rare thriller you're not entirely sure how it will end.  The film's treatment of Americans isn't kind, but considering the buffoon we recently elected...not unfair.  Mirren could do this in her sleep (in fact most of these actors could), and I thought the most intriguing parts of this movie (particularly the sly sexism that hits her harder than the other men, particularly when one of her subordinates disobeys) are skated over, but by-and-large this is imminently watchable to the point where I wonder if the director didn't notice it was happening in the script, even if nowhere near the Oscar nomination some were drumming for the dame.
Ranking: 3/5 stars

The Innocents

Thoughts: No actress in 2016 more fully landed on my list of "on the radar" in a bigger way than Lou de Laage.  Between this and her mesmerizing work in L'Attesa, I can attest that I'll be seeking her out in a big way in future years, and I suspect a Cesar is in her future.  The film is not always easy, and occasionally is very hard to sit through, but it's beautifully shot and a more complex picture than you'd normally expect from a mid-fall foreign art house hit.
Ranking: 3/5 stars

The Legend of Tarzan

Thoughts: It seems funny to review Alexander Skarsgard right now, knowing what he's capable of as an actor (is anyone else thoroughly enjoying Big Little Lies right now-I'm totally enamored?).  This film, of course, is not really an acting showcase, but Skarsgard's shot at movie stardom. The casting department could not be lazier (about the only way they could have found a more cliched set of supporting players would have been to throw Paul Giamatti in there for no reason), but the action is fun and I thought the movie itself was beautifully shot.  Still-this is silliness on-top of silliness, and oh man is Chrisotph Waltz terrible.
Ranking: 2/5 stars

The Light Between Oceans

Thoughts: I will admit that initially I had higher hopes for this movie-it was one of my most-anticipated pictures of 2016, particularly considering how much I've loved the three leads in recent years.  However, that disappointment shouldn't be confused with a bad movie, even if it's sadly a pretty predictable one.  Fassbender and Vikander are both great as the tragic romantic leads, and Weisz might under-emote as the grieving mother, but that feels more like the script's fault that she doesn't get any big scenes. Still, some of the film's best moments (particularly Vikander begging her husband to lie for her sake, to keep her from being lonely) show a movie with great unrealized potential.
Ranking: 3/5 stars

Miss Sloane

Thoughts: Sometimes it's hard to remember that not everything is about the Oscars.  This is particularly hard to stomach when a movie stars one of your favorite actors of the moment, one of whom you wish had an Oscar (hint, hint), but Miss Sloane isn't really an Oscar movie.  It's the sort of taut late-Summer thriller that used to get vacation homes for Julia Roberts or Ashley Judd but has somehow gone out of fashion (perhaps because it got completely absorbed by television?).  Either way, this is a fun movie even if it's wildly over-the-top, and is proof that if Chastain ever wants to just cash-out with big paychecks, she has that ability while still remaining watchable.
Ranking: 3/5 stars


Thoughts: Surely the best film on this list, and the one with the best performance, I almost skipped including Paterson because I wanted to discuss it more, but that's technically true of all of these movies (I really just want to talk about movies all day long).  That being said, the comments are there if you want to go further.  Until then, remember that this is a fascinating little study of one single life, proving that you can make pretty much anyone compelling with good writing and good acting, and Driver's central performance exhibits a man that feels like he's being under-served in major movies even if he's cast almost everywhere.  That penultimate scene is a doozy, one almost every other actor would have underplayed or screwed up but Driver nails against the wall and keeps you guessing-when is he going to get some Oscar love?
Ranking: 4/5 stars

Sunset Song

Thoughts: Probably the biggest "who?" film on this list, I saw this because it was Terence Davies' follow-up to the sexy and brilliant The Deep Blue Sea. so it felt like a civic duty.  The movie shows the impossibly hard life of Scottish peasants right before World War I.  The movie is beautiful, and has that "case of the handsomes" in that it's rarely compelling, and never really lets up with the hardships even for a moment.  The central love story feels, in my opinion, to be too jumpy in the treatment of Ewan, which is a pity as there was a great movie somewhere in the pages of Lewis Grassic Gibbon's famed novel.
Ranking: 3/5 stars

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