Saturday, November 18, 2017

Logan Lucky (2017)

Director: Steven Soderbergh. Cast: Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Daniel Craig, Riley Keough, Katie Holmes, Seth MacFarlane, Katherine Waterston, Hilary Swank. 118 min. Rated PG-13. Comedy/Crime.

A fun, entertaining heist movie, comparable to Soderbergh's other fun, entertaining heist movie(s), the Ocean's trilogy - with one huge difference: the lovable Las Vegas thieves in the Ocean movies are introduced as smart and sassy; here, Soderbergh already plays out his North Carolina heroes as dumb, low-life idiots from the get-go. So when they plan and pull off such a brilliant, intricate job (with a little help from that script device called 'co-incidence'), expecting us as viewers to suspend disbelief becomes the understatement of the year. Literally "introducing" a new actor named Daniel Craig was fun though.

PS: Wow. The Girlfriend Experience, Che, The Informant!, Contagion, Haywire, and this. All 'So-So' scores. I guess Soderbergh can hardly impress me.

Mo says:

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) (2017)

Director: Noah Baumbach. Cast: Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller, Dustin Hoffman, Grace Van Patten, Emma Thompson, Judd Hirsch, Adam Driver, Candice Bergen, Sakina Jaffrey. 112 min. Comedy/Drama.

My (self-proclaimed) legions of fans already know: as opposed to the rest of the world, I'm not crazy about Noah Baumbach. Here he tells the (probably autobiographical) story of an old narcissistic father and his two sons, who collectively freshen up the term 'dysfunctional family'. You'll find pieces of these relationships in your own family, and some moments will haunt you, but by choosing his central character a Jewish New Yorker has-been artist with a Bohemian wife and successful/loser sons, Baumbach has limited his scope and reach. Don't know - maybe I'll change my mind about this in the future.

Mo says:

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Murder on the Orient Express (2017)

Director: Kenneth Branagh. Cast: Kenneth Branagh, Penélope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Daisy Ridley, Josh Gad, Johnny Depp, Derek Jacobi, Michelle Pfeiffer, Judi Dench, Olivia Colman. 114 min. Rated PG-13. Malta/USA.

The reason I always found Agatha Christie's whodunits far superior to Arthur Conan Doyle's, was that Christie often incorporated a human element in Hercule Poirot's expertise at solving mysteries - a talent Sherlock Holmes generally didn't portray. Ironically, that is what was missing from Sidney Lumet's well-done 1974 adaptation of the famous novel, and that's what Kenneth Branagh has managed to capture in his remake. While the stunning cinematography and Poirot's unexpected crowbar mustache here are characters on their own, Branagh's direction is what makes that baffling ending twist very emotional, and very memorable.

PS: I'm glad there's an ending reference to another famous Poirot whodunit, "Death on the Nile". Looking forward to seeing Branagh in this role again.

Mo says:

Good Time (2017)

Director(s): Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie. Cast: Robert Pattinson, Benny Safdie, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Barkhad Abdi. 101 min. Rated R. Crime/Thriller.

Robert Pattinson, as a small-time thief, manipulates his mentally-challenged brother to accompany him in his own life of crime, then attempts to rescue him when the brother gets caught instead. After a taut, thrilling first half (you suddenly notice the credits rolling at minute 17!) and a brilliant mid-movie twist, the story gradually loses momentum, and becomes like any other crime movie. While the central idea is how one criminal is able to destroy so many lives (himself included), I was amazed at how Pattinson has managed to completely reinvent himself since his deplorable Twilight days.

Mo says:

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Ingrid Goes West (2017)

Director: Matt Spicer. Cast: Aubrey Plaza, Elizabeth Olsen, O'Shea Jackson Jr.. 98 min. Rated R. Comedy/Drama.

A smart satire with great potential. The whole Californian (or just American) way of life, where a sub-human materialistic mentality combines with nauseating social media obsession, and creates imbecile mini-monsters unable to observe beyond a two-feet perimeter around them. Aubrey Plaza is perfect as a loser who actively falls prey to the adulation of an "Instagram star" (whatever that is). And while the story sets everything up for a very brave ending, suddenly and disappointingly, it chickens out of that brave ending. We need something that's ready to take this all the way.

Mo says:

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017)

Director: Luc Besson. Cast: Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevingne, Clive Owen, Rihanna, Ethan Hawke, Herbie Hancock, Rutger Hauer. 137 min. Rated PG-13. France/China/Belgium/Germany/UAE/USA/UK/Canada. Adventure/Fantasy.

There are original stories like "Dune" and "Valerian", which people claim Star Wars stole ideas from, and if their movies had premiered before Star Wars, each would've revolutionized cinema the way Star Wars did. Well, sorry - they didn't. So now, post-Star Wars, what's left of the films based on that source material, is just repeated plot points ... and blasting visual and sound effects. I kept watching this very long movie, and kept thinking: other than spectacular computer animation, what motivated the illustrious Luc Besson to make this? Is gloating over CGI effects, the sole reason to make a movie?

PS: The title for the original French comic book that inspired this was "Valérian and Laureline". Considering that Cara Delevingne's enchanting screen presence (as Laureline) entirely blows her male counterpart (as Valerian) into oblivion, I'm surprised there hasn't been a female revolt over the movie's title. They simply excluded her.

Mo says:

The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017)

Director: Yorgos Lanthimos. Cast: Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Barry Keoghan, Bill Camp, Alicia Silverstone. 121 min. Rated R. UK/Ireland/USA. Fantasy/Horror.

From the director of Dogtooth and The Lobster, displaying all the familiar staples of a Yorgos Lanthimos film: bizarre fantasy/horror situation, satirically stoic catatonic characters, dark moody cinematography, and even an obligatory self-mutilation scene. But while the first half's theme is similar to Spielberg's Duel (something catastrophic is happening to you, and you don't know why) accompanied by references to The Shining's chilling soundtrack, the presence of a sadistic character should've warned me this will devolve into my greatest film-viewing pet-peeve: a movie that betrays its viewer's emotional investment. Because this film's ending is truly abhorrent.

Mo says:

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

Director: Taika Waititi. Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett, Idris Elba, Jeff Goldblum, Tessa Thompson, Karl Urban, Mark Ruffalo, Anthony Hopkins, Benedict Cumberbatch, Taika Waititi (voice), Rachel House, Sam Neill, Matt Damon. 130 min. Rated PG-13. Fantasy/Action/Comedy.

Describing a movie as "breathing fresh air into the superhero genre" has become so cliché, it's more of a testimony to a dying genre than a compliment to its most recent flick. But considering the first and second Thor movies have been the most boring of the 17 Marvel films so far, anything is an improvement. Ironically, by adding his own unique touch of humor (here and here), New Zealand director Waititi actually does breath fresh air into the genre. A funny and entertaining movie all around, reminding of the fun of the first Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy.

PS: Considering all the buildup to the moment Thor's unrivaled opponent in the gladiator arena is shown, would've helped if the identity of that opponent wasn't spoiled a thousand times in the trailers.

Mo says:

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Pulse (Kairo) (2001)

Director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa. Cast: Haruhiko Katô, Kumiko Asô, Koyuki. 118 min. Rated R. Japan. Horror.

Another modern Japanese horror, astonishingly ahead of its time. Similar to The Ring, it uses audiovisual technology (here, the advent of the internet) to delve into the horrors of loneliness in our supposed 'era of connectivity' - even forecasting the duplicity of social media at bringing people together. Add to that, the mastery of sound effects during moments of silence and ambiguous lighting of the backgrounds, create some truly terrifying sequences. But then, the second half loses steam quite fast, due to lack of a coherent script to connect these incredibly imaginative moments of terror. A hugely missed opportunity.

PS: Inspired a Wes Craven-written 2006 remake which apparently flopped.

Mo says:

Monday, October 30, 2017

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power (2017)

Director(s): Bonni Cohen, Jon Shenk. 98 min. Rated PG. Documentary.

Initially you think, more of the same: another climate change documentary, that by no means will carry the Earth-shattering (no pun intended) effect the original 2006 film had. But then the movie goes along, and you realize Al Gore is not only summarizing the worsening environment status since the original, but also shockingly predicting the recent rapid succession of four devastating hurricanes hitting the US, and the rampant Northern California wildfires ... after the film's premiere. But of course, there's mention of that imbecile pulling the U.S. out of the Paris Accords - something the entire world worked so hard to accomplish.

Mo says:

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Happy Death Day (2017)

Director: Christopher Landon. Cast: Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard, Ruby Modine. 96 min. Rated PG-13. Horror.

A horror version of the 1993 movie Groundhog Day, with literally an entire hour of its hour and half duration already summarized in the trailer. And I correctly guessed the killer halfway through the movie, even though what the killer accomplishes is logistically impossible! So what remained for me was ... why is this girl stuck in a time loop? I have no qualms spoiling, that that question is never answered. Newcomer Jessica Rothe demonstrates unquestionable star power, and while I look forward to her future endeavors, this movie made me felt cheated.

Mo says:

Friday, October 27, 2017

Gerald's Game (2017)

Director: Mike Flanagan. Cast: Carla Gugino, Bruce Greenwood, Carel Struycken, Henry Thomas. 103 min. Horror/Thriller.

What starts as a sex game after a mere 10 minutes becomes a struggle for survival. The closest Stephen King-based movie to this is Misery (1990), all the way down to a cringe-worthy scene towards the end equivalent to that movie's hobbling scene. And like many of King's best stories, isn't just satisfied with a climactic protagonist battle, but continues on to an epilogue. Since we've already been told she's hallucinating, the epilogue 'fairly' flips all we've already seen on its head, and concludes with a message of female empowerment. Great minimalist thriller, from the filmmaker who rejuvenated Ouija.

PS: I guess Mike Flanagan is big buddies with Henry "E.T.-Elliot" Thomas.

PPS: This too made by and available on Netflix.

Mo says: