Weekly Movie Roundup

Flatliners Waterworld Prom Night
  • The remake of Flatliners somehow manages to be even worse than the original, which wasn’t a very movie good to begin with.
    • Waterworld is surprisingly not terrible. But I guess when you cost that much, at least in 1995, not terrible isn’t nearly good enough. It’s not a great movie—it largely squanders its premise, and there’s limited evidence of that skyrocketed budget on the screen—but it’s surprisingly entertaining.
      • Prom Night is surprisingly terrible, a mostly dull and confused plot with few if any scares or even tension. If it truly is “one of the most influential slasher films of the period,” that may say some pretty terrible things about the genre.
      Bonjour Tristesse Blue Is the Warmest Colour Dune: Part Two
      • There is some stunning use of color, as well as black and white, in Bonjour Tristesse, along with lovely performances all around.
        • Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos are both phenomenal in Blue Is the Warmest Colour. The film is maybe best known for its very graphic (if simulated) sex scenes and its length, but it’s also a genuinely touching story about the awakening of desire and about how a love can fall apart.
          • If Dune: Part Two doesn’t hold together as a narrative quite as well as the first half, that might be Frank Herbert’s fault as much as Denis Villeneuve’s. The second half of the novel is a lot more complicated—and also the part I don’t remember as well from decades ago when I last read it. But as compelling as the movie often is, even at three hours, and as stunning as a lot of its visuals undoubtedly would have been on a giant screen, it often felt oddly paced and a little padded. I enjoyed the movie a lot, and may do so even more when and if I revisit both halves as a single film, but the end felt less like a satisfying conclusion than the set-up for the sequel, which is reportedly already in the works.

          I also rewatched the (still delightful) Before Sunset.

          Weekly Movie Roundup

          I watched another 6 movies last week:

          Sometimes I Think About Dying Do Not Expect Too Much from the End of the World The Pope's Exorcist
          • Daisy Ridley delivers such a quietly understated and socially awkward performance in Sometimes I Think About Dying, and I think I kind of unexpectedly loved it.
            • Do Not Expect Too Much from the End of the World is certainly clever and inventive and pointed when it wants to be, even if I’m not convinced it needs to be as long as it is.
              • The best thing The Pope’s Exorcist has going for it–maybe the only particularly good thing–is Russell Crowe. But he delivers such a fun, over-the-top performance that I could not help but be entertained.
              Brooklyn 45 All Creatures Here Below Guarding Tess
              • Brooklyn 45 stumbles a little near the end–I think I would have preferred a slightly cleverer ending, something to make the whole thing feel a little less repetitive–but the cast, particularly Anne Ramsay, turn in such strong performances, and the movie makes such effective use of its locked-room set.
                • There are very good performances in All Creatures Here Below, from Dastmalchian’s barely controlled anger to Gillan’s oddly childlike brokenness. The film arguably tosses one too many tragic cliches into the mix, but those performances, along with the naturalistic direction, keep everything surprisingly grounded.
                  • I just did not find Guarding Tess funny. Like, at all. What little it has going for it, in the pairing of Cage and MacLaine, is lost in a very dumb and belabored kidnapping subplot late in the movie.

                  Weekly Movie Roundup

                  I watched 6 movies last week:

                  Where Is the Friend's House The Unknown Girl The Beasts
                  • Where Is the Friend’s House is so effective because it is seen so thoroughly through a child’s eyes. We know what Ahmed knows, even when the adults around him don’t, and we understand his inability to articulate that, even as he feels compelled to the right thing for his friend.
                    • All the reviews I read of The Unknown Girl compare it unfavorably to the Dardenne brothers’ earlier films, none of which I’ve yet seen, but praise Adèle Haenel’s performance, which I agree is what makes the movie work.
                      • There’s a sense of inevitability that hangs over The Beasts, but it’s so well observed, asking you to empathize with all its characters, even those who do and say terrible things.
                      The Heroic Trio Saint Omer The Marriage of Maria Braun
                      • The Heroic Trio is ridiculous, but it’s frequently ridiculous fun.
                        • Saint Omer is slow and emotionally draining, but it asks difficult and important questions.
                          • Roger Ebert called The Marriage of Maria Braun the story of “an indelible monster who is perversely fascinating because she knows exactly what she is doing and explains it to her victims while it is being done.” And yet, I think it’s more than that, because Hanna Schygulla’s performance is so good and self-assured that we never quite feel like Maria is a monster, even as she undoubtedly treats others around her monstrously.

                          I also re-watched Interstellar, which I think I liked more the second time around, a decade later, and Dagon, which remains a really good Stuart Gordon Lovecraft adaptation, all the more so for its micro-budget.

                          Weekly Movie Roundup

                          The Royal Hotel Deal of the Centiry Suitable Flesh
                          • Well that escalated quickly. Or should I say Quigley, as in down under? (Look, that’s a terrible not-even-a-joke, but nobody else is reading these, and it’s been rattling around in my brain all week.) Anyway, things go from bad to worse very quickly at a remote Australian pub in The Royal Hotel, and it’s a credit to the filmmaking that tension is almost enough to keep you invested, despite fizzling out a little at the end.
                            • Deal of the Century is terrible, and it would be easy to blame all of that on Chevy Chase, depending on how grating you find his particular brand of smarm. But I think he’s actually sometimes quite good here, intentionally undercutting that smarm with some pathos and dramatic weight. The problem is, the movie is played as a comedy, and not a single moment of it is ever even a little funny.
                              • Suitable Flesh is fun, if never as much fun as you hope it will be, or as much fun as the ’80s Stuart Gordon Lovecraft adaptations it’s clearly emulating.
                              The Tunnel River of Grass Hundreds of Beavers
                              • Like a lot of found-footage horror movies, The Tunnel seems to understand the strengths of the format but not its weaknesses. The movie is often genuinely scary, and its structure suggests it’s going to do something clever and unexpected…but then it just doesn’t.
                                • River of Grass is a lot more interesting as a first step in the evolution of Kelly Reichardt’s career as a filmmaker than as a film on its own. It’s much more disjointed and uneven than any of her later films—occasionally interesting, but the only one of her films I wouldn’t recommend just on its own merits.
                                  • Hundreds of Beavers is clever and silly and often very funny, but its brand of absurdity is a hard thing to sustain for almost two hours.
                                  The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes Sully The Children's Hour
                                  • While perhaps not the world’s greatest mystery, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes is a lot of fun.
                                    • Sully works very hard to manufacture tension, and yet it makes the strange decision to depict the crash entirely in flashback sequences, after we’ve been reminded several times that everyone on board the flight survived. It’s no wonder the movie reportedly invented from whole cloth a much more antagonistic NTSB investigation into that crash—without it, there’s little to any dramatic weight in the entire film. Hanks is…I suppose good in the titular role, but it’s hard to bring much to such a reserved and self-effacing character. Despite a couple of gratuitous flashbacks to his youth and several conversations (over cellphones, never on screen) with his wife, by the end, I never felt like I got to know anything about Sullenberger except that he successfully landed that plane.
                                      • The are some good things in The Children’s Hour, including some nice subtle moments in Shirley MacLaine’s performance. But the way the movie often plays coy with its subject matter doesn’t necessarily work in its favor.

                                      I also re-watched After Life, which I haven’t seen in some twenty-five years, but which is still a lovely and bittersweet film. Two decades ago, I was maybe surer of the memory I would pick to take with me, were I to die and face this particular afterlife. Now I’m not so sure, but I also think that might be sort of the point. As Roger Ebert wrote in his original review, “Which memory would I choose? I sit looking out the window, as images play through my mind. There are so many moments to choose from. Just thinking about them makes me feel fortunate.”

                                      Weekly Movie Roundup

                                      Clouds of Sils Maria Alucarda The Man from London
                                      • Clouds of Sils Maria makes some unexpected choices, particularly near the end, and it seems very deliberately to leave things (almost disappointingly) unresolved. And yet it’s also very engrossing, and the three leads—particularly Stewart and Binoche—really shine.
                                        • Things escalate very quickly to the diabolic in Alucarda, which I’m not sure is entirely successful—and definitely shows its budget as a ’70s Mexican horror movie—but it has such an interesting, frequently unsettling look.
                                          • Not to put too fine a point on it, but The Man from London is awful, near-unwatchable—and not just because it’s excruciatingly long or strangely dubbed, but because it hardly even qualifies as a film. It’s more a collection of still images occasionally interspersed with a slow sludge of movement or unengaging dialogue. That they’re sometimes well-composed images is hardly the point; a short film like La Jetée, for instance, still manages to make photographs feel cinematic, whereas The Man from London feels like an endurance test, or an art installation critics might nod appreciatively at but no one actually wants to sit through.
                                          The Seventh Cross The Place Promised in Our Early Days 45 Years
                                          • None of the actors in The Seventh Cross are actually German, which is occasionally odd, as is the way the story is narrated. Yet there’s a lot about the movie that is pretty terrific, including an Oscar-nominated performance by Hume Cronyn.
                                            • The Place Promised in Our Early Days has some lovely animated visuals, but the complicated timelines and alternate histories make it a little hard to follow.
                                              • Charlotte Rampling is just so good, in such subtle ways, in 45 Years.

                                              I also re-watched a couple of movies:

                                              • I didn’t like Hackers in 1995, and if I’ve grown to appreciate it more by even the smallest measure since then, that’s only because it seems even more ridiculous, and you almost have to laugh at that.
                                                • I also didn’t love my re-visit of Penn & Teller Get Killed, which has a few good moments, mostly at the beginning at end, but doesn’t hold together as a narrative or as a showcase for the duo. (Oddly enough, Penn Jillette gives a much more interesting performance in Hackers.)