Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
ListsAn error has ocurred. Please try again
Funny at times but not nearly enough
"Blockers" (2018 release; 102 min.) brings the story of three BFFs on their prom night. As the movie opens, Julie, Kayla and Sam meet on the very first day of kindergarten and immediately become best friends. In a quick but clever montage, we see the 3 girls growing up to the present day as HS seniors, and about to go to their prom night. The girls decide on a sex pact to lose their virginity that night. By happenstance, Julie's mom Lisa sees Julie's texts on her open laptop, and when Lisa, Kayla's dad Mitchell, and Sam's dad Hunter figure this out, they are determined to stop the girls. At this point we're not even 20 min. into the movie, but to tell you more of the plot would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.
Couple of comments: this is the directing debut of Kay Cannon, who wrote all three Pitch Perfect movies. Here she is working from a script by 5 (!) screen writers (but not herself).This is an R-rated comedy for a reason, so if you are easily offended by sexual or vulgar jokes, by all means stay away from this movie. It is a SEX COMEDY. Not that this movie is all-out funny. Sure, there are some hilarious moments, and a couple of very physical gags, but most of the time I just found myself starting at the big screen. Leslie Mann is cast perfectly in the role of the well-meaning but overly cautious mom. Likewise for Isaac Barinholtz as Hunter (and following his roles in other hard R-Rated comedies like Neighbors and its sequel Sorority Rising). WWE wrestler John Cena as Mitchell apparently doesn't mind being the butt of a joke (literally). But overall this movie is just okay for me (to put in context: I enjoyed the recent "Game Night", another recent R-rated comedy, more than I did "Blockers).
"Blockers" premiered last month at the SXSW Festival to good acclaim. The movie opened wide this weekend, and the Saturday matinee screening where I saw this at was attended very well (but no quite sold out). I noticed that Seth Rogen is one of the movie's producers, so you mix in Rogen, Barinholtz, Mann, and movies like Neighbors and Knocked Up, and you know exactly what to expect in "Blockers". I encourage you to seek it out, be it in the theater, on VOD or eventually on DVD/Blu-ray, and draw your own conclusion.
A Quiet Place (2018)
"Stay silent, stay alive!"
"A Quiet Place" (2018 release; 90 min.) brings the story of the Abbott family. As the movie opens, we are told it's "Day 89", and the Abbotts (mom, dad, and 3 kids) are quietly looking for useful things in an abandoned store in an abandoned village. They communicate through sign language. When the youngest, a small boy maybe 4-5, wants to take a toy, dad says no, because it might make too much noise (which apparently sets in motion unspeakable things). But behind dad's back, his older sister gives him the toy anyway. On their way home through the woods, the little boy starts playing with the toy, to the horror of mom and dad, but before dad can do anything, the little boy is snatched up by a large alien creature. At this point we are 5 minutes into the movie, but to tell you more of the plot would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.
Couple of comments: this is the second movie directed by actor John Krasinski, and what an outstanding effort this is. Krasinksi himself plays the role of dad, and Emily Blunt (Krasinski's wife in the real world) is mom. we find out in the movie that the story is set in 2020, but we are never told what exactly happened to the world as we know it, or how these creatures got here. All we need to know is: they are here and if you make a sound, you'll probably get hunted down. But for a few sentences spoken midway in the movie, there is no spoken dialogue whatsoever. This makes for a very interesting movie experience. Sure, we've seen dialogue-free movies in recent years (All Is Lost, and The Red Turtle come to mind), but this is in a horror movie setting. It took the theater audience a while to settle down (way too much crowd noise in the beginning for my liking), but about midway through, you could hear a pin drop in the theater. Why? The movie makers were clever enough to develop these characters in a way that you end up caring about them and feeling emotionally invested in the movie. You are rooting for the Abbotts to make it through! Because there is no dialogue, the orchestral score by composer Marco Beltrami plays a disproportionate role in the movie (almost like a character itself), and I will seek that out as well.
"A Quite Place" premiered last month at the SXSW Festival, to immediate critical acclaim. The buzz around the movie has been building ever since. It opened wide this weekend, and I couldn't wait to see it. The Friday evening screening where I saw this at here in Cincinnati was pretty much a sell-out. As mentioned before, the crowd really got into it, and in particular as to being quiet along with the quiet moments in the movie (of which there are a number). Bottom line: "A Quiet Place" is the latest original/clever horror film, and I encourage you to see it out, be it in the theater, on VOD, or eventually on DVD/Blu-ray. "A Quiet Place" is a WINNER.
Outstanding political and personal drama from Bulgaria
"Glory" (2016 release from Bulgaria; 101 min.) brings the story of Tsanko. As the movie opens, Tsanko is inspecting the train tracks and along the way he falls upon a huge amount of cash laying on the tracks. He calls the police to report it. Meanwhile the Transport Ministry PR team jumps into action, eager to create a diversion from the steady stream of bad news the Ministry has been suffering. Tsanko, who has a bad stutter in his speech, is invited to Sofia by the Ministry to collect an award (a watch). At the last second, the PR manager takes off his current watch, a nice "Glory" engraved by his dad "To my son Tsanko". In the chaos of the award ceremony and subsequent reception, Tsanko doesn't get back his heirloom, so the next day he s desperate to reclaim his watch. Will he be able to retrieve it? To tell you more of the plot would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.
Couple of comments: this is the latest from co-writers and co-directors Kristina Grozave and Petar Valchanov, who previoulsy brought us "The Lesson". Here they create chilling, even Capra-reminding, movie about how one innocent person can become the object of a machnery (be it the state, the journalists, you name it), and the devastating effects it can cause. Stefan Denolvubov's performance as Tsanko will break your heart. All he wants is to get his old watch back, possibly the most precious of his (few) possessions. Margita Gosheva as the calculating Ministry PR manager is equally impressive, but of course hers is a very unlikable role. I must admit that in the initial third of the move, I was wondering where all if this was going. If you also start worrying, I can rest assure you that the last 45 min. of the movie will leave you astonished (I shan't say more!).
I don't think this movie ever got a US theatrical release, but thankfully Film Movement picked it up as part of its Movie of the Month Club releases, and that is how I finally got to see this. If you are in the mood for a top-notch foreign movie that takes a sharp look at the innocence of one person coming in direct conflict with a larger political machinery that will leave you shaking your head in despair, I strongly suggest that you seek out "Glory". I'm quite certain that you will agree.
Germans standing in the long shadows of WW II
"Amnesia" (2015 release from France/Switzerland; 96 min.) brings the story of Martha, a woman in her 60s or so, and Jo, a guy in his 20s. As the movie opens, we see Martha enjoying the sunset somewhere on an island. We then go to "10 years earlier - Spring, 1990", shortly after the fall of the Berlin wall. Martha is speaking English to her German brother who is trying to convince her to sell something back in Germany. Later, Martha's new neighbor Jo stops by as he cuts his hand accidentally. Jo is a DJ from Berlin hoping to make it big on Ibiza. Martha doesn't disclose to him that she is German, and they converse in English. Martha also refuses to ride in his car (a VW). Along the way, Martha and Jo become good friends. At this point we're not even 15 min. into the movie but to tell you more of the plot would spoil your viewing experience, you';; just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.
Couple of comments: this is the latest movie from director Barbet Schroeder (Single White Female; Reversal of Fortune)> Here he tackles a very different topic, namely the long shadows of WW II onto ordinary Germans. The movie is paced very slowly, and it takes quite a while to find the movie's definitive direction, but once we get there, there is no escaping it. The acting by both leads (Marthe Keller as Martha, and Max Riemelt as Jo) really carry the movie. The movie's photography is pure eye-candy, and in a way the film can be viewed as a 90 min. commercial for Ibiza. And let's not forget Schroeder. He has been making films since 1969 (when he directed "More", yes, the film for which Pink Floyd did the soundtrack). The guy is now in his 70s and he is still going very strong. And why not!
"Amnesia" premiered at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival. I don't think that it ever got a US theatrical release, but thank goodness for the folks at Film Movement, which eventually released it as part of its Movie of the Month Club releases. That is how I eventually got to see it. If you are in the mood for a foreign talk (no action!) about the long shadows of WW II, I encourage you to check this out.
Isle of Dogs (2018)
Wes Anderson's 2nd motion-stop animated film is a WINNER all the way
"Isle of Dogs" (2018 release; 101 min.) brings the story of the canine population in Megasaki City. Japan. As the movie opens, we are told it is "20 years into the future", and a dog virus is sweeping the city. Mayor Kobayashi signs a dog ban, and Spots is the first dog deported to Trash Island. We then go to "6 months later", and Atari Kobayashi, the Mayor's nephew, sneaks onto Trash Island, determined to find his beloved Spots. Atari befriends a pack of dogs led by Chief. Will they find Spots? Will the dog virus be treated? At this point we're less than 15 min. into the movie but to tell you more of the plot would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.
Couple of comments: this is the latest movie from writer-producer-director Wed Anderson, and his second stop-motion animated film, following the equally excellent "Fantastic Mr. Fox" (2009). The big difference is that "Isle of Dogs" is set in Japan, and features Japanese dialogue and communications (all translated by either a translator or a device called "Simul-Translate"). The movie plays out in 4 parts, and I have to say that my favorite is Part II "The Search for Spots" (get it?). Anderson devotes careful attention to even the smallest details, and I'm sure that I missed quite q view in my first viewing of the film. The movie features an all-star voice cast, truly too many to name them all, but let me just point out Liev Schreiber as Spots, Greta Gerwig as foreign exchange student Tracy Walker (who later is revealed to hail from... "Cincinnati, Ohio", much to the delight--hooting an hollering--from the theater crowd where I saw this at), and Bryan Cranston as Chief. The animation itself is done exquisitely, truly a eye-candy from start to finish. The movie's dialogue brims with vigor and comedy (although I was surprised by the use of the term "final and permanent solution" when the Mayor contemplates killing all dogs). Last, but certainly not least, Anderson's house composer Alexandre Desplat returns once again (on the heels of his second Oscar win--his first Oscar was of course for Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel). Desplat brings a dazzling score, mixing Japanese elements with more traditional (Western) music. Can't wait to check out the movie's soundtrack.
"Isle of Dogs" premiered at the Berlin Film Festival in February to immediate critical acclaim. It opened at my local art-house theater here in Cincinnati this past weekend (on not one, not two but THREE screens, something I have never seen before), and I couldn't wait to see it. The Sunday early evening screening where I saw this at was attended nicely, and it was clear the crowd was loving it. "Isle of Dogs" is a funny and engaging movie, not the kind where you are rolling on the floor laughing hysterically but instead you have that certain smile on your face, chucking on and off, while taking in as much of the movie's details as you possibly can. If you enjoyed "Fantastic Mr. Fox", I readily suggest you check out "Isle of Dogs", be it at the theater, on VOD, or eventually on DVD/Blu-ray. "Isle of Dogs" is a WINNER all the way.
Zoey Deutch's acting talents surpass the movie by a mile or two
"Flower" (2017 release; 93 min.) brings the story of Erica and her family and friends. As the movie opens, Erica and two friends expose and blackmail a cop who accepted a blowjob from Erica, a 17 yr. old minor. We then get to know Erica's mom, with whom Erica is close, and her mom's boyfriend Bob, whose 18 yr. old son Luke is being released from rehab and moves in as well. Luke claims that years ago he was molested by his teacher Will, and when they run into Will at the bowling alley, they decide that justice needs to be served. Did Will molest Luke? What becomes of Erica and Luke? At this point we're 15 min, into the movie but to tell you more of the plot would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to eee for yourself how it all plays out.
Couple of comments: this is the feature length debut of co-writer and director Max Winker, best known for his TV work. Here he brings the tale of a rebellious and well-meaning 17 yr. old girl who manages to get herself into trouble time and again. The movie benefits tremendously from Joey Deutch's acting talents, but alas the movie suffers visibly from a lack of focus. I mean, this is really three movies in one, as the focus shift and one movie becomes another one, before it becomes yet another movie again. By the end, the story has become utterly improbable and, frankly, preposterous. And that's a shame, as there are some good elements in the movie. But it is clear that Zoey Deutch's acting talents surpass the movie by a mile or two, There are some great songs in the movie, including a very nice cover of "Daydream" (the 1969 hit single of the Belgian band the Wallace Collection) by a guy I've never heard of before.
"Flower" premiered a year ago at the Tribeca Film Festival, and finally opened at my local art-house theater here in Cincinnati this past weekend, No idea why it has taken so long to get a theatrical release, but better late then never I suppose. The Friday early evening screening where I saw this at was attended poorly (4 people in total, including myself), and given that this movie won't benefit from strong word-of-mouth, this will not be playing long in theaters. In the end, "Flower' is notable only to see Zoey Deutch, but I encourage you to check it out, be it in the theater, on VOD, or eventually on DVD/Blu-ray, and draw your own conclusion.
Highly stylish dark crime drama from Flanders (Belgium)
"The Ardennes" (2015 release from Belgium; 96 min.) brings the story of brothers Dave and Kenny. As the movie opens, Dave is seen scrambling and driving off madly with a woman, while Kenny is not so lucky, and gets arrested. In a quick montage, Kenny is sentenced to 7 years in jail, his girlfriend Sylvie attends AA/NA meetings and is now 2 years clean, and Dave is working at a carwash. Then after 4 years, Kenny is released, and Dave picks him up. Kenny is disappointed that Sylvie isn't there to meet him, but we in the meantime know that Sylvie is now with Dave, and pregnant (all unbeknownst to Kenny). At his mom's urging, Dave is able to get Kenny a job at the car wash. Will Kenny find out about Dave and Sylvie? Will Kenny remain on the straight-and-narrow? At this point we are a good 10 min. into the movie but to tell you more pf the plot would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.
Couple of comments: in the initial opening credits, the movie is announced as "Belgian cinema from Flanders" (which is the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium). In fact, the movie is set in and around Antwerp, my original home town, and all of the characters speak with a pronounced Antwerp dialect accent. Writer-director Robin Pront previously was the producer of the Oscar-nominated "Bullhead". Here he explores another crime drama, and along with it a complicated relationship between 2 brothers. The movie is highly stylish in both its photography and camera angles, adding to the overall sense of dread that something very bad may be going down. Veerle Batens as Sylvie delivers yet another top-notch performance, as does Jeroen perceval as Dave. But the intense performance of Kevin Janssens as the unstable Kenny is what really lifts this movie. Last but certainly not least, there is an outstanding electronic score, courtesy of Flemish composer Hendrik Willemyns, whom I had never heard of before. Bottom line, this is a dark crime drama which I ended up enjoying a lot more than I expected. Incidentally, this was Belgium's official entry for the 2017 Best Foreign Language Movie Oscar (it was not nominated).
While "The Ardennes" played at a number of film festivals (it premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival) and was officially released in the US in early 2017, it really wasn't until Film Movement released it as part of its Movie of the Month releases that this gained a wider audience. This is how I finally was able to see it. So glad I did (and not just because I originally hail from Belgium). If you are in the mood for a dark crime drama, I'd readily recommend you check this out and draw your own conclusion. I think you will be quite pleased. "The Ardennes" is a WINNER.
Ready Player One (2018)
CGI dazzles but the movie's characters lack depth
"Ready Player One" (2018 release; 140 min.) brings the story of Wade. As the movie opens, we are reminded it is "Columbus, Ohio, 2045, The Stacks", as we get to know Wade, a 17 year old living with his aunt. Wade, like many, spends a lot of time in a virtual reality world called the Oasis. In the Oasis Wade is known as Parzival. Before long, we learn that Halliday, the deceased co-creator of the Oasis, has left an Easter Egg hidden in the Oasis (and along with it, ownership of the Oasis and a half trillion dollars), which can be retrieved upon collecting three keys. The Oasis avatars are keen on finding the treasure, and that includes shady characters from IOI, a competitor of the Oasis. Who will find the Easter Egg? What becomes of Wade/Parzival? At this point we're 10 min. into the movie, but to tell you more of the plot would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.
Couple of comments: let me admit right upfront that if it weren't for the fact that this movie is directed by Steven Spielberg, I doubt that I would've gone to see it. Spielberg is perhaps the leading director of the last 40+ years, and I will always respect what he does/give him a chance. This is the big screen adaptation of the novel by Ernest Cline, which I have not read (and hence an in no position to comment how widely the movie diverges from the book--if at all). The movie is at its essence a nostalgic trip down into the 70s and 80s, when simple(r) computer games ruled (Atari, etc.). Long stretches of the movie play out entirely within the Oasis, and hence are purely CGI. And I'll admit it: these are at times dazzling, and always entertaining, sequences Check out the initial car race in Manhattan, with King Kong at the gatekeeper of the finish line. And with that, we are also on a treasure hunt of pop culture references, the likes of which I cannot recall having seen before. Sure, other movies have dabbled into that as well, but surely no movie has the sheer amount of them that "Ready Player One". I caught quite a few, but I'm sure there are tons of others that I simply didn't have the time to see. (Apparently the production team spent several years negotiating to get the licensing rights for all of these pop culture references.) My favorite sequence comes when Parzival and his friends find themselves in the setting of Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining" while looking for a clue to the next key. Sheer fun! However, once we are back in the real world, the movie suffers from poor character development. The movie's characters lack depth in every which way, and hence I have no emotional attachment or investment in any of them. In that sense, the movie is really just eye-candy, nothing more, nothing less, and I believe that a tighter edit of the movie (cutting its running time from the current excessively long 2 hrs. 20 min,) would've benefited the movie too. The movie features a ton of great music, both as to song placements (with lost of classic rock from the 70s and 80s) and the original score (courtesy of composer Alan Silvestri).
"Ready Player One" opened wide on Thursday (after previews on Wednesday evening). The Thursday early evening screening where I saw this at here in Cincinnati was attended nicely (but by no means sold out). As the end credits started rolling, the audience burst out in a spontaneous applause. Don't get me wrong: I liked "Ready Player One" for what it was, a nostalgic trip down into a simpler video gaming era, crammed with so many pop culture references that it will take several viewing to catch them all. But in the end, watching the movie is like watching a video game, literally. I encourage you to check out "Ready Player One", be it in the theater, on VOD, or eventually on DVD/Blu-ray, and draw your own conclusion.
The Death of Stalin (2017)
Comedy? Satire? What a joke! (no laughs, no chuckles)
"The Death of Stalin" (2017 release from the UK; 107 min.) brings the story of the power struggle to succeed Stalin. As the movie opens, we are reminded it is "Moscow, 1953". Stalin is listening to a live broadcast of a classical orchestra performance, and decides to order a recording of it. When it turns out no recording was made, the Radio Moscow manager corrals the audience and orchestra to redo the entire concert. Meanwhile, Stalin has issued more death lists and sends out his men to round up and kill the people named in the list. Then, shortly after Stalin gets the orchestra recording delivered to his office, he suffers a cerebral hemorrhage, and the Central Committee members begin scrambling to become the next Soviet leader. At this point we're 15 min. into the movie but to tell you more of the plot would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.
Couple of comments: this movie is co-written and directed by none other than Armando Iannucci, the creator of HBO's "Veep". So I immediately thought or expected to be charmed in the best possible way. Alas, it was not to be. As the movie opened, I kept waiting for some funny stuff, or at least something, ANYTHING, to give me a reason to smile or chuckle. I didn't get any, I am sad to say. I have no idea what was going on, other than the scheming and backstabbing among the potential successors of Stalin. Much has been made about the (alleged) historical inaccuracies in the movie. I am not a historian, and so I couldn't care less whether Iannucci took an artistic license with some of the facts. If you look at the movie's poster, you'll notice that the tag line is "A Comedy of Terrors". I wish that were true! The reality is that this movie completely misfires, either as a comedy or as a satire, period.
"The Death of Stalin" premiered at last Fall's Toronto International Film Festival. Imagine my surprise when this opened last week in both of the art-house theaters here in Cincinnati, and on multiple screens in each of them. I haven't the faintest idea why they are thinking that there is a pent-up demand for this movie. The Tuesday evening screening where I saw this at was attended so-so (less than 10 people), I couldn't help but notice that I wasn't the only one waiting for an opportunity to laugh or chuckle. I didn't hear any. Bottom line, I cannot recommend this film in good conscience to anyone, but of course I encourage you to check it out, be it in the theater, on VOD, or eventually on DVD/Blu-ray, and draw your own conclusion.
Not as compelling as that other recent Holocaust related movie from Hungary
As "1945" (2017 release from Hungary; 91 min.) opens, we are reminded by the radio news anchor that it is "Friday, August 12, 1945, 10 o'clock", the day the US drops a second atomic bomb on Japan and WW II is all but over. In a remote Hungarian village, a man (we later learn he is the Town Clerk, in essence the Mayor) and his family are getting ready for the new day. It's a big day as his son is getting married. Meanwhile, a train arrives at the town's train station and getting off are two Orthodox Jews. They brought with them two large crates. The train stationmaster is alarmed for some reason, and dashes off to inform the Town Clerk. Why is the stationmaster alarmed? what does the Town Clerk do? and what is in those crates? At this point we are 10 minutes into the movie but to tell you more of the plot would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see how it all plays out.
Couple of comments: this movie is co-written and directed by Hungary's Ferenc Torok. He tackles a delicate time in Hungary's history, when WW II is ending, the Soviets are there to stay, and Jews are returning (at least those that were lucky enough to survive the Holocaust). It has the potential of being a terrific story and movie, and while the movie certainly isn't bad, neither is it great, For that, the story is brought too stilted and too acted (you can practically hear the director yell "and... ACTION!" as you watch the actors on the screen. Many horrible things were done to the Jews in and after WW II, and that needs to be exposed. But I'd rather see it done in a riveting movie, say Hungary's other recent Holocaust drama, the 2016 Oscar-winning "Son of Saul", which purely as a movie is MILES better than "1945", I'm afraid. Please note that, like "son of Saul", "1945 is shot in remarkable B&W.
"1945" premiered at last year's Berlin Film Festival, and now more than a year later, appeared out of the blue on a single screen for all of Southwest Florida. The Sunday early evening screening where I saw this at a few weekends ago was attended so-so (less than 10 people). If you are interested in WW II or the treatment of Jews at that time, I'd suggest you check out "1945" in the theater (unlikely at this point), on VOD, or eventually on DVD/Blu-ray, and draw your own conclusion.
Our New President (2018)
"The time of detached unbiased journalism is over"
"Our New President" (2018 release; 77 min.) is a documentary on how the Russian media (primarily-but not only-TV) covered the 2016 US presidential elections and its aftermath. As the documentary opens, we see how in 1997 then-First Lady Hillary Clinton visits the "Mummy Princess", supposedly leading to "disturbing the spirits" and causing Clinton's health scares in the 2016 campaign. And the fantasies are just starting! In the movie's eight chapters, we get to understand different aspects of the whole thing, from the basics of Ostankino Tower (Chapter 1), from which Russian news is broadcast, to "Fake Realities" (Chapter 6) and "21st Century Propaganda" (Chapter 7), which get to the very core of it.
Couple of comments: this is the latest documentary from hot-button director Maxim Pozdorovkin, who previously made a well-received documentary about Pussy Riot. Here he captures the Russian propaganda machine in full swing. If you are wondering how bad it is, think of it as the equivalent of the National Enquirer presenting the TV evening news every night, essentially totally misconstruing 'facts' or simply making them up. Keep in mind of course that the Russian government controls every single moment of every single TV broadcast in the entire country. Imagine if Trump were to directly control every single TV news outlet in this country. Seems unimaginable (although I'm sure Trump would like that idea), but in Russia that is the reality. You'll hear the head of Russia Today (the news organization) say things like "Objectivity is a 20th century word", and "The time of detached unbiased journalism is over". And watching average Russians rejoice at Trump's victory is just ... bizarre. But that is the end result of a massive propaganda machine that works 24/7 to manipulate the Russian people (and of course also the American people, as we all know by now). In the end, "Our New President" is a little bit like reading that recent book "Fire and Fury: Inside the White House": you suspect all of this going on, but when you see it all laid out in a nicely organized manner, you cannot help but shake your head in disgust and disbelief.
I had read about "Our New President" a few months ago, and was very much hoping for an opportunity to see it. Imagine my surprise and good fortune when it had several screenings at the recent Fort Myers Film Festival while I was there. The Saturday matinee screening where I saw this at was attended so-so (about 15 people), which I thought was disappointing. Maybe the later showings would attract more people. In any event, I'm quite happy to have seen this. If you have any interest in understanding better what is going on in Russia today, I'd encourage you to check out "Our New President", be it in theaters (not very likely), on VOD (most likely), or eventually on DVD/Blu-ray, and draw your own conclusion.
This should've won Best Foreign Language Movie Oscar (but likely deemed too bleak)
"Loveless" (2017 release from Russia; 127 min.) brings the story of Boris and Zhenya and their 12 yr. old son Alexey. As the movie opens, school les out and Alexey takes the long way home, through a nearby park. At home, we quickly learn that Zhenya and Boris are going through a bitter and antagonizing divorce. They argue relentlessly, all the while thinking Alexey doesn't hear them But he hears them all too well... Boris and Zhenya are already in new relationships. Then one day, Alexey doesn't come home from school. Where could he be? Can Boris and Zehnya patch their personal differences in looking for their son? To tell you more of the plot would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.
Couple of comments: this is the latest movie from Russian writer-director Andrey Zvyagintsev, who previously brought us such excellent films like 2012's Oscar-nominated Leviathan, and 2011's Elena. In "Loveless", he goes a very different direction, examining modern day life in Moscow with its endless apartment buildings, and the correlating urban loneliness. The very bitter feelings between Boris and Zhenya are at times shocking, but feel very real. The two Russian actors playing the roles of Boris and Zhenya are unknown to me, but are nothing short of outstanding. I absolutely love how Zvyagintsev chooses a camera angle and setup, and then simply lets the scene unfold. Check the lunch scene between Boris and his co-worker, where they discuss their company's policy on divorce, all playing out over several minutes in a single take without any camera angle changes. The second half of the movie, focusing on the search for Alexey, is simply chilling and by the end of the movie I was emotionally spent. That is of course a dead giveaway that I was emotionally involved and invested in the movie, the sign of a top quality movie, "Loveless" was nominated at this year's Oscars for Best Foreign Language Movie, but did not win. I have now seen all 5 of the Oscar nominated movies in this category, and with all due respect to the Oscar winner "A Fantastic Woman", I have no doubt in my mind that "Loveless" is a better movie, and should've won. Alas, I am also quite certain that quite a few of the Oscar voters were turned off by the very bleak nature of "Loveless", in fact quite the opposite of "A Fantastic Woman". After the thinly-veiled criticism of the Russian authorities in "Leviathan", it came as no surprise that the Russian government refused any funding for "Loveless", so Zvyagintsev had to obtain funding from elsewhere (mostly Western Europe).
"Loveless" premiered at last year's Cannes festival to immediate critical acclaim. It finally opened at my local art-house theater here in Cincinnati this weekend, and I couldn't wait to see it. The Sunday early evening screening where I saw this at was attended dismally (4 people in total, including myself). That is a darn shame. Hopefully this movie will gain a wider audience as it gets distributed on various platforms. If you are in the mood for a devastating family drama movie that is nothing short of top-notch, I encourage you to check it out, be it in the theater (while you still can), on VOD, or eventually on DVD/Blu-ray.
The Leisure Seeker (2017)
Ho-hum movie about early dementia and old age in general
"The Leisure Seeker" (2017 release; 112 min.) brings the story of John and Ella Spencer. As the movie opens, we are told it is "Wellesley, MA, August 29, 2016", when (grown-up) son Will finds out that his elderly parents have taken off with their 1975 Winnebago van, even tough John suffers from early dementia, and Ella isn't doing great either. John and Ella want to do one more road trip, all the way down to Key West to visit Ernest Hemingway's house, a long-held dream by John. It's not long before John and Ella encounter problems, while enjoying their road trip. At this point we are 10 min. into the movie, but to tell you more of the plot would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.
Couple of comments: this is the latest movie from Italian writer-director Paulo Rirzi, who previously brought us "Human Capital" and "Like Crazy". Here, in his first all-English language movie, he brings the 2008 best-selling book of the same name by Michael Zadoorian to the big screen. It stars Donald Sutherland (as John) and Hellen Mirren (as Ella), reunited in firm for the first time since 1990's "Bethune: The Making of a Hero". Let's be clear: both Sutherland and Mirren are wonderful, reminding me of Henry Fonda and Katharine Hepburn's tour de force in 1981's "On Golden Pond". In particular Mirren is fabulous as the caring wife having to deal with her husband's early dementia. But the movie is quite predictable (about halfway through I predicted the movie's end, and I was right). Even worse, the movie makers felt it necessary to spike the setting with not one, but several Donald Trump 2016 presidential campaign rallies (and making their personal views clear along the way). I mean, the book came out in 2008, so in essence the movie makers made this up, for no good reason at all (it doesn't advance the plot in any way). I'm no Trump fan myself, but there is a time and place for everything, and this is simply irritating and annoying. In the end, just enjoy this movie for Sutherland and Mirren. Mirren scored a Best Actress Golden Globe nomination for this, and I can't argue with that.
"The Leisure Seeker" premiered at last year's Venice Film Festival., and now is getting a limited US theater release. The Saturday early evening screening where I saw this at was attended quite nicely (and mostly by seniors I might add). Given the surprisingly subdued marketing campaign for this movie, I can't see this playing in theaters very long. If you are in the mood for a ho-hum movie dealing with early dementia and old age in general, with excellent performances from Donald Sutherland and Helen Mirren, I'd recommend you check this out, be it in the theater, on VOD or eventually on DVD/Blu-ray, and draw your own conclusion.
Game Night (2018)
Mindless fun with the talented Jason Bateman and Rachael McAdams
"Game Night" (2018 release; 100 min.) brings the story of Max and Annie and their game night friends. In the movie's quick and fun opening montage, we see hoe Max and Annie meet at a Trivia Night and eventually marry (all while Queen's Don't Stop Me plays). Fast forward to today: Max and Annie have trouble conceiving. Meanwhile Max's brother Brooks, with whom Max has a fierce rivalry, is back in town, and invites the Game Night gang over for a game night of.... "something different", he promises, "where you can't tell the real from the fake". Soon thereafter, two burglars crash into his house and seem to attack and abduct Brooks. But are they? At this point we're less than 15 min. into the movie, but to tell you more of the plot would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.
Couple of comments: this is the latest from frequent collaborators/co-writers/co-directors John Daley and Jonathan Goldstein, who most recently brought us "Vacation". Here they brings us an R-rated comedy that goes more for the chuckles than the outright laughs. And let me be clear: there are plenty of chuckles, and even some outright laughs. The movie benefits enormously from the obvious chemistry between the two leads, Jason Bateman (as Max) and Rachel McAdams (as Annie). The long scene where Annie tries to remove a bullet from Max's arm after she accidentally shot him, is pure gold, and that alone is worth the price of admission. There are plenty of other moments. Check out McAdams as she dances along to Third Eye Blind's "Semi-Charmed Life", just infectious. True, the plot is at once way too complicated yet utterly predictable, but do we really watch a movie like "Game Night" for the plot? I didn't think so... Before you know it, the movie has flown by. No, this isn't a 'serious' movie that is looking for any Oscar nominations. I was in the mood for some mindless fun, and "Game Night" delivered exactly at that level. Last but not least, there is a ton of great music in the film, both as to the song placements and the original electronic score, courtesy of Cliff Martinez (who seems to be everywhere these days).
"Game Night" opened wide a few weeks ago. The Tuesday evening screening where I saw this at here in Cincinnati was attended very nicely, and people in the audience clearly enjoyed themselves. If you are in the mood for some mindless fun while enjoying the talents of Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams, I encourage you to check out "Game Night", be it in the theater, on VOD, or eventually on DVD/Blu-ray, and draw your own conclusion.
Black comedy-thriller fails to get me emotionally invested
"Thoroughbreds" (2017 release; 90 min.) brings the story of Lily and Amanda. As the movie opens with "Chapter I", Amanda comes to Lily's house for SAT tutoring. The Connecticut girls apparently were friends in grade school, but haven't seen each other in years. We learn very quickly that Amanda is not your average girl. "I feel nothing, and need to work a little harder than most everyone to be good", she tells Lily. She also shows Lily the "Technique" (i.e. crying on demand). In the meantime, it is equally clear that Lily does not like or care for Mark, her overbearing/controlling stepdad, and it isn't long that the girls are dreaming up plans to get rid of Mark for good. At this point we're less than 15 min. into the movie but to tell you more of the plot would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.
Couple of comments: this is the debut from writer-director Corey Finley. Here he brings us a black comedy-thriller that plays out almost entirely in Lily's house (and hence at times feels more like a stage play than a movie). The movie rests on the shoulders of the two protagonists Amanda (played by Olivia Cooke) and Lily (played by Anya Taylor-Joy). Cooke reminds me of Anne Hathaway, while Taylor-Joy reminds me of Ellen Page. Those are all good things obviously. Still, I must admit that at no time did I feel emotionally involved or invested in any of the movie's characters. The movie plays out in 4 chapters, and by the time we get to the last one, things are pretty tense (I shan't say more...). There is an interesting (and percussion-heavy) original score, courtesy of Eric Friendlander. Last, but certainly not least, the character of Tim (a small-time hustler and drug dealer) is played by Anton Yelchin (best known for his work in the Star Trek franchise reboot). He died in a freak accident just weeks after completing filming "Thoroughbreds", and the movie is of course dedicated to him.
"Thoroughbreds" premiered to immediate critical acclaim at the 2017 Sundance festival, yes over 14 months ago. No idea why it has taken so long for this movie to get a theatrical release. The movie opened this weekend on 2 screens for all of Greater Cincinnati. The early Sunday evening screening where I saw this at was attended just okay (about 10 people). If you are in the mood for a black comedy-thriller that is more clinical than involving, I'd suggest you check out 'thoroughbreds", be it in the theater, on VOD, or eventually on DVD/Blu-ray, and draw your own conclusion.
Una mujer fantástica (2017)
Moving (and Oscar-winning) film asks for respect and dignity for all
"A Fantastic Woman" (2017 release from Chile; 106 min.) brings the story of Marina, a transgender woman living in Santiago. As the movie opens, we get to know Marina and her partner Orlando. They are celebrating Marina's birthday and we later learn that Marina has just moved in with Orlando. Later that night, Orlando wakes up not feeling well. In the rush to get to the hospital, Orlando also falls down the stairs. Not long after arriving at the hospital, Orlando dies from an aneurysm. At this point we're less than 15 min. into the movie, but to tell you more of the plot would spoil your viewing experience, you';; just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.
Couple of comments: the is the latest movie from Chilean writer-director Sebastian Lelio, whose previous film, 2013's "Gloria" was an equally outstanding film. Here he examines the fallout of the unexpected passing of a guy who is in a relationship with a transgender woman, in particular the reactions from the guy's family, but also the hospital and the police who are looking at this as a possible suspect death. Beware: there are a number of scenes that are bound to unsettle you (I know they were unsettling to me). Of course, Lelio is trying to make a bigger point here (namely, everyone deserves to be treated with respect and dignity). Not enough praise can be given to Daniela Vega (in the role of Marina), appearing in virtual every frame of the movie. Last weekend, "A Fantastic Woman" won the Best Foreign Language Movie Oscar. Is it really 2017's best foreign movie? Certainly Sweden's "The Square" could've made a good argument but in the end it doesn't matter. When watching a movie like this, it's at times hard to separate the intrinsic artistic merit of the movie and the social issues it portrays. All I can say is that this movie had my attention from the get-go, and that it all flashed by in no time, always a good sign.
"A Fantastic Woman" opened this weekend at my local art-house theater here in Cincinnati. The early Saturday evening screening where I saw this at was attended sparingly (about 10-12 people), somewhat to my surprise, given the critical buzz this movie has garnered sine it premiered at last Fall's Toronto International Film Festival. If you are in the mood for a top-notch quality foreign film, or interested to see how a transgender woman's life unfolds after the unexpected death of her partner, I encourage you to see out "A Fantastic Woman", be it in the theater, on VOD, or eventually on DVD/Blu-ray. "A Fantastic Woman" is a WINNER.
Delightful documentary with stellar Philip Glass soundtrack
"Jane" (2017 release; 90 min.) is a documentary about the life and times of Jane Goodall. As the movie opens, we are reminded that in 2014 hundreds of hours of 1960s film footage was unearthed at the National Geographic archives relating to Jane Goodall. From there we go back in time, and we get to know Jane, then 26, as she is chosen by Dr. Leakey to observe and mingle with the wild chimps in Gombe, Tanzania, even though she has no training or science degree (yet). It was important to Dr. Leakey that someone with an open mind without preconceptions would do the observing. Jane can't believe her good fortune as this is a dream come true for her. She throws herself into her work. At this point we are less than 10 min. into the movie.
Couple of comments: this is the latest from documentary maker Brett Morgen, who previously brought us the excellent "Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck", Chicago 10" and "The Kid Stay in the Picture", among others. Here he sifts through mountains of rarely or never seen footage shot over half a century ago, showing us how a 26 year old single white woman decides to do whatever it takes to integrate herself into a community of wild chimps. Along the way we also learn a thing or two about Jane's personal life.But the primary reason to watch this is the 1960s footage of the bush and what life was like back then. There are some extraordinary scenes, and some frightening ones as well. But it always kept my attention. last, but certainly not least, Morgen was able to convince the legendary Philip Glass to write a brand new score for this movie, and that score is classic Glass, just gorgeous (available here on Amazon on CD and as a download). You can bet I will check that out shortly.
"Jane" opened to positive acclaim at the Toronto International Film Festival last Fall. I was quite surprised that it didn't score a Best Documentary Oscar nomination, but that doesn't diminish the movie's quality or its appeal. This recently opened for a one week run at my local art-house theater here in Cincinnati. The screening where I caught it at (on the very last day of that one week run) was attended quite nicely actually (probably other people who, like me, wanted to catch it before the end of its run). If you like nature/animal documentaries, or are simply curious to learn more about the life of this extraordinary lady, you cannot go wrong with this. "Jane" is a WINNER.
Aus dem Nichts (2017)
German movie will create and stimulate discussion
"In the Fade" (2017 release from Germany; 106 min.; original title "Aus dem Nichts" or "From Nothing") brings the story of Katja. As the movie opens, we see Katja marrying her Turkish boyfriend Nuri in a quickie prison wedding. We then move to today, where Katja and Nuri have a 6 year old son Rocco, living happily in Hamburg. One day, Katja drops off Rocco at Nuri's office, while Katja meets up with a pregnant girlfriend for a ladies day out. Upon returning, the street of Nuri's office is blocked off, and before we know it, we realize that a bomb explosion has killed Nuri and Rocco. Who has done this? and why? At this point we are 10 min. into the movie, but to tell you more would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.
Couple of comments: this is latest movie from German (and of Turkish decent) writer-director Fatih Akin, Here he examines the aftermath of a brutal bombing, leaving a woman to cope with inconceivable grief, while wondering whether the bombers will be caught. The movie comes in several chapters (I.The Family II.Justice, etc.). The movie stands or falls with the performance by Diane Kruger, an American-German actress here taking on her first German-speaking role. Kruger is nothing short of phenomenal as the grieving and then angry widow. The movie is bound to create and stimulate discussion with its controversial ending (biting lips--I shan't say more!). I have no idea why the US release is done as "In the Fade" (what does that mean anyway?), rather than a literal translation of the original German title "From Nothing". Diane Kruger won Best Actress for that at last year's Canned Film Festival (where it premiered), and the movie won this year's Golden Globe for Best Foreign Film, yet inexplicably this didn't even score a Best Oscar nomination (let alone win)...
I saw "Aus dem Nichts" this past weekend at the Gateway Film Center in Columbus, OH. The Sunday early evening screening where I saw this at (the evening of the Oscar ceremonies) was attended nicely (about half the auditorium). While the movie isn't without fault and some may argue that the last third stretches credibility, I nevertheless found this a very much worthwhile movie, and I'd readily recommend you seek this out, be it in the theater, on VOD or eventually on DVD/Blu-ray, and draw your own conclusion.
Red Sparrow (2018)
"Every person is a human puzzle of need"
"Red Sparrow" (2018 release; 139 min.) brings the story of Dominika. As the movie opens, Dominika cares for her ailing mother, and then, while dancing ballet at the Bolshoi suffers a brutal leg injury (accident? or not?). We then go the "3 Months Later", when Dominika is forced by her uncle, the Vice Deputy of Security, to go to training school for sparrows (in return for which her ailing mom receives medical care). Sparrows are used by Russia to compromise enemies of the state in any way possible. "Every person is a human puzzle of need", they are taught. Dominika is tasked with finding a mole high up in the Russian government... To tell you more of the plot would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.
Couple of comments: this movie marks the reunion of director Francis Lawrence and actress Jennifer Lawrence, who made 3 of the 4 Hunger Games movies before. Here they go a very different direction, namely an ol' fashioned spy thriller drama, as if we're back in the Cold War (and maybe we actually are). The movie is very plot-driven and, I must admit, quite convoluted, so pay attention! even then, there's a good chance you'll get lost during some parts along the way. Lawrence truly takes the movie on her shoulders, appearing in virtually all scenes, and no-one is going to out-tough Jennifer Lawrence! Speaking of Jennifer which: there are several extended torture scenes that are just brutal (I had to look away more than once). Besides Jennifer Lawrence, the movie also benefits from the performance of Belgium's Matthias Schoenaerts, in the role of the sinister no-good uncle. Charlotte Rampling equally delights in her small role as the sparrows teacher/trainer. The movie's production set is first class all the way, with Hungary standing in for Russia, and extended scenes in London and Vienna as well. Last but certainly not least, there is a warm orchestral score that plays prominently in the movie, courtesy of veteran composer James Newton Howard.
"Red Sparrow" opened wide this weekend, and I couldn't wait to see it. The Saturday early evening screening where I saw this at here in Cincinnati was pretty much sold out, which is of course normal for a movie of this stature just opening. Whether it will have staying power, only time will tell. If you are a fan of a good spy story (even it it's a bit convoluted), or a fan of Jennifer Lawrence, you'll want to check this out, be it in the theater, on VOD, or eventually on DVD/Blu-ray.
Pitting (Christian) Arabs vs. (Palestine) Arabs: there are no winners
"The Insult" (2017 release from Lebanon; 112 min.) brings the story of Tony, a Christian Lebanese, and Yasser, a Palestine refugee and long-time resident of Lebanon. As the movie opens, we see Tony at a rally of the Christian party in Beirut. When Tony gets back home, he spends time with his highly pregnant wife Shirine. Them by accident, and resulting from a faulty drainpipe on his balcony, he wets Yasser, a foreman in a construction crew that is repairing buildings in the neighborhood. One thing leads to another, and Yasser calls Tony a "f---ing prick". Tony is outraged, and decides to pursue the matter. At this point we are 10 min. into the movie, but to tell you more of the plot would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.
Couple of comments: this is the latest movie from accomplished Lebanese writer-director Zid Doueiri, who previously has brought us excellent films like 2012's "The Attack". Here Doueiri brings another heavily politicized tale that pushes all the right buttons, this time pitting Arabs against Arabs. I must admit that I wasn't really aware of this, but if we believe what Doueiri portrays in this film, there is a deeply-seeded resentment within the Lebanese Christian community against the many Palestinians what have over the years crossed into Lebanon and settled there. Central to the film are the long court proceedings that eventually take place between the two protagonists. I shan't say much more (biting my lip)! But I will say this: the movie flies by in no time. When the Best Foreign language Oscar nominations were recently accounted, I was a bit surprised to see that this was nominated. Now that I have seen the film, I can't help but feel whether this was nominated more for political reasons that for pure artistic reasons. Not to imply that "The Insult" is not a good movie, but in my humble opinion there are other foreign language movies from last year that seem to be more deserving, such as "Thelma" (from Norway). "B.P.M." (from France), or "The Commune" (from Denmark), just to name those.
"The Insult" opened in early February at my local art-house theater here in Cincinnati, and I couldn't wait to see it. The Super Bowl Sunday matinee screening where I saw this at was attended very nicely, somewhat to my surprise. Glad to see there seems to be a strong interest for this! If you are in the mood for a highly charged and political drama that pits Christian Arabs against Palestine Arabs, you cannot go wrong with this, so I encourage you to check out "The Insult", be it in the theatre, on VOD, or eventually on DVD/Blu-ray, and draw your own conclusion...
Annette Bening robbed by the Oscars yet AGAIN
"Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool" (2017 release; 107 min.) is a movie about the last years in the life of actress Gloria Grahame. As the movie opens (and Elton John's "Song For Guy" plays in the background), we are told it's "Liverpool, England, 1981" and we see Gloria applying make-up and getting ready for a theater performance. But she falls ill. She reaches out to Peter Turner in nearby Liverpool and asks if she can come stay at his mum's house. Peter agrees. We then go back in time to "Primrose Hill, London, 1979", and we see Peter running into Gloria for the first time. At this point we are 10 min. into the movie, but to tell you more of the plot would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.
Couple of comments: this is latest from Scottish director Paul McGuigan, best known for "Victor Frankenstein". Here he brings the real life memoir of Peter Turner to the big screen. Turner met faded film star in the late 70s when he was 28 and she was twice that age. i shan't say more (biting my lips). Let's be very clear about one thing: leading actress Annette Bening is absolutely fantastic in this movie. You might think that, having been criminally overlooked in last year's Oscar nominations for he outstanding work in "20th Century Women", the Academy would be a bit more careful this time around. But no. Bening is once again robbed by the Academy, which instead once again lazily gave another nomination to Meryl Streep for her ok (but by no means outstanding) work in the very medicore "The Post" (an "All President's Men" wanna-be that is nowhere close to that gold standard). Jamie Bell is equally up to the task, but has nowhere near the stature or screen presence of Bening. Vanessa Redgrave appear in one scene. The movie's set production (recreating the late 70s/early 80s) is immaculate. Last but not least there is a lot f great music in the film, both as to the score and the song placements.
"Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool" has been gradually expanding over the last 2 months, and it finally opened last weekend at my local art house theater here in Cincinnati. The Sunday early evening screening where I saw this at was attended okay (about 15 people or so). Other than the very basic premise of an older woman's relationship with a younger guy, I knew nothing about the movie beforehand, and I ended up enjoying this quite a bit more than I had expected. But it the end, this film is really about Annette Bening's outstanding performance, and that alone is worth checking this out, be it in the theater, on VOD, or eventually on DVD/Blu-ray.
L'amant double (2017)
Preposterous semi-erotic psychological thriller misfires badly
"L'Amant Double (2017 release from France; US title Double Lover; 115 min.) brings the story of Chloe. As the movie opens, Chloe is discussing unexplained stomach aches with her doctor, who decided to refer Chloe to a psychologist, Paul Meyer. After a number of sessions, Chloe and Paul fall in love and she moves in with Paul. By coincidence, Chloe finds out that Paul has a twin brother, Louis, also a psychologist. Why didn't Paul tell Chloe about his twin brother? What becomes of Paul and Chloe? At this point we are 15 min,. into the movie, but to tell you more of the plot would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.
Couple of comments: this is the latest movie from well-regarded French director Francois Ozon, who previously brought us "Frantz", "In The House", "Potiche", just to name those (I absolutely loved "In the House"). Here he goes a very different direction, and brings a (semi-erotic) psychological thriller that even has some Hitchcockian elements to it: is everyone really who they appear to be? who is misleading whom? It all should make for a terrific movie. Alas, it isn't to be, and not by a long shot. Due to the plot-heavy nature of this film, I really don't want to say much more . But let me just say that by the end, it was utterly impossible to keep track as to who really was who, and some of the plot twists are nothing short of preposterous. Beware, there is quite a bit of nudity in the film, starting with a very weird opening shot. Belgian actor Jérémie Renier plays the dual roles of the twin brothers, and does the best he can with the material he's given. French actress Marine Vacth, on the other hand, looks utterly lost as Chloe. The legendary Jacqueline Bisset, as the mother, is unrecognizable (I didn't even realize it was her until the end credits rolled).
"L'Amant Double" premiered at last year's Cannes Film Festival (how it made the festival's cut is absolutely beyond me). "Double Lover" recently opened on a single screen for all of Southwest Florida. The Saturday early evening screening where I saw this at was attended okay but not great (about 15 people). I cannot imagine that this will play a long time in the theater. I typically love foreign movies, and knowing Ozon's reputation going in, I was really looking forward to this. While in good conscience I cannot recommend "Double Lover", I of course encourage you to check it out, be it in the theater, on VOD or eventually on DVD/Blu-ray, and draw your own conclusion.
"Many theories, few facts"... another sci-fi from Alex Garmand
"Annihilation" (2018 release; 115 min.) brings the story of Lena. As the movie opens, Lena is being debriefed upon her return of a trip, the sole survivor of an expedition to figure out what is going on in "Area X". We then go back in time: we witness something from outer space hitting a lighthouse (but we don't know what exactly), and then Lena's husband Kane returns home after having been away for 12 months on a covert mission and Lena thinking he had died. Kane is clearly very sick, and when Lena takes him to the hospital, government forces intercept the ambulance and the are both taken to a compound called the Southern Reach... At this point we are 10 min. into the movie, but to tell you more of the plot would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.
Couple of comments: this is the latest movie from writer-director Alex Garland, who previously brought us the excellent sci-fi "Ex Machina". Here Garland does another sci-fi project (working from Jeff VanderMeer's novel of the same name). It's quite mysterious as to what exactly is happening. When Lena tries to extract some basic facts from the doctor-psychologist, she simply tells Lena "Many theories, few facts", and that will have to do it. The first half of the movie muddles along, and it isn't until we reach the second half that things really take off, as we start to understand what is really unfolding. There are some terrific (and terrifying) scenes in that second half that will have you holding on to your seat... (I shan't say more). Natalie Portman is wonderful as Lena. Oscar Isaac seems bewildered as her husband Kane. Jennifer Jason Leigh is almost unrecognizable as the doctor-psychologist. The movie's photography is a bit heavy on CGI special effects. Last but certainly not least, there is a spectacular original score, courtesy of composers Portishead's Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury (they also scored "Ex Machina") that I plan on seeking out.
"Annihilation" opened this weekend, and I was looking forward to catching it. The Friday early evening screening where I saw this at was not attended well (less than 10 people in huge theater), and I can't say that it surprised me as it seems the movie is struggling to create an identity while also trying to escape the attention-grabbing blockbuster "Black Panther". Nevertheless, while it is not quite as exquisite as "Ex Machina", I found it worthwhile, and I'd recommend you seek it out, be it in the theater, on VOD or eventually on DVD/Blu-ray, and draw your own conclusion.
Den of Thieves (2018)
At times intriguing, but overly long and too predictable
Den of Thieves" (2018; 140 min.) brings the story of Nick and his fellow LA sheriffs. As the movie opens, we are reminded that LA is the bank robbery capital of the world, where a robbery happens every 48 min. We then go to "Gardena, South L.A. 5:14 am", where a money truck is robbed and in the ensuing shoot-out, several people are killed including a cop. "We're cop killers now", laments one of robbers. Later Nick examines the crime scene and much to his surprise, the money truck was empty. Why would the robbers target a money truck without money? At this point, we're 10 min. into to the movie but to tell you more of the plot would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.
Couple of comments: this is the directing debut of screenwriter Christian Gudegast, who previously gave us "London Has Fallen". "Den of Thieves" is very much in the same vein as "London Has Fallen", an action movie that is bent on winning you over with hair-raising shoot-outs and heists. The premise of the movie, namely why would the robbers rob, and then take off with, an empty money truck is actually quite clever and intriguing. Alas, it isn't long that we get sidetracked with far too many tangents that do not advance the core story line and dramatically slow down the movie. There is zero reason for this movie to be creeping towards a running time of 2 1/2 min., and the movie would've benefited greatly from an editing trim to bring it in around 2 hrs. On the other hand, the movie benefits greatly from Gerard Butler's performance, who seems he was born to plays this rough-and-tumble character of the corrupt-but-meaning -to-do-well LA cop. I can't say the same thing about Pablo Schreiber who, as the main villain Ray Merrimen, lacks color and personality. Last but certainly not least, there is a delightful electronic score courtesy of composer Cliff Martinez, delivering his usual top-notch electronic noodling (check: "Drive", "Only God Forgives", etc.).
"Den of Thieves" opened strongly at the box office in January. For whatever reason, I didn't get around to seeing it until this past weekend, a month into its run in the theater. The Sunday matinee screening where I saw this at was attended quite nicely, somewhat to my surprise. Looks like this movie benefited from good word-of-mouth. I enjoyed it for what it was, nothing more, nothing less, but tighter editing would've made it even better. I encourage you to check out "Den of "Thieves", be it in the theater, on VOD or eventually on DVD/Blu-ray, and draw your own conclusion.
VeAz Hi Hegiaa (2017)
Utterly predictable "when Haifa boy meets Jerusalem girl" rom-com
"And Then She Arrived" (2017 release from Israel; 104 min.) brings the story of Dan. As the movie, "inspired by true events", opens, it is "28.08.1998" and we get to know Dan, who is almost 30,. Dan is a lawyer working at his dad's firm, a once-promising guitarist-singer in a band, and a huge fan of Hapoel Haifa, the local football team. Oh, and he's got a long-time sweetheart/girlfriend. Then one day, after a court hearing in Jerusalem where Dan did surprisingly well, he and his dad go out to lunch nearby to celebrate, and the waitress clumsily spills ice cream on Dan's shirt... At this point we're not even 15 min. into the movie, but to tell you more of the plot would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just had to see for yourself how it all plays out.
Couple of comments: this is the feature length debut movie from well-known Israeli TV director Roee Florentin. Here he brings a true story to the big screen. It all plays out very nicely, and that is unfortunately part of the problem, at least for me. It is one of those films where all the work is done for you, and nothing more is required from the viewer than to sit and watch it play out on the big screen (or small screen, I suppose). I like my films a bit more engaging and challenging, frankly. I realize that this probably reflects more on me that on the intrinsic quality of this film. So to be clear: "And Then She Arrived" is not a 'bad' film by any definition, it's simply not the type of movie that suits me very well.
I saw "And Then She Arrived" recently as part of the 2018 Jewish & Israeli Film Festival here in Cincinnati. The Tuesday evening screening where I saw this at was close to a sell-out, and lots of people in the audience seemed to enjoy it. If you are in the mood for a lighthearted rom-com playing out in an Israeli setting (Haifa, Jerusalem), you will probably enjoy this too.