The Official Review Thread of 2018

The Original BJ
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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2018

Postby The Original BJ » Wed Jun 20, 2018 1:22 pm

A few thoughts on some recent releases:

I agree with Sabin that A Quiet Place is effectively mounted, and generates suspense in some smart ways -- the concept of creatures only being able to identify victims through sound feels fresh and leads to some very nerve-wracking sequences, the use of silence and sound throughout is extraordinary, and the film gets plenty of mileage out of classic tension generators (like that damn nail). The film also has a more solid than usual emotional core for this type of project -- I was pretty shocked just how swiftly the film went into dramatic territory within its opening moments. All of that said, I thought it had some derivative elements too. The look of the monsters wasn't all that inventive (they were basically a variation on the demagorgon from Stranger Things), the milieu had an obvious antecedent in Signs (aliens invade a farmhouse, complete with cornfield set pieces), and even the climax was basically lifted from Signs as well. So for me, this was a solid genre piece, but certainly not one that amounted to anything more than that.

I DID think Hereditary, for much of its running time at least, offered something a bit more complex and imaginative than your standard haunted house fare. (Go figure that it nabbed that D+ Cinemascore.) From the opening sequences, as the central family deals with the death of its matriarch, it explores some fairly interesting territory surrounding grief and how its characters process it, particularly in a situation where the deceased's relationship to the family she left behind was strained, at best. Then the film moves into pretty demented territory, as things just keep getting more horrifying for this family, and I found this easily the most compelling section of the story -- the supernatural elements are obviously present, but the plot is so grounded in emotionally charged, real-world familial dynamics that I was able to take even the more outrageous story beats fully seriously. (It also helps that the film knows just when to inject black humor into the proceedings, leaning into its more overly preposterous moments with a wink). And it must be said that the presence of Toni Collette is a gift to this movie -- she's terrific, in certainly her best film performance in ages, if not ever, in a role that provides her numerous meaty scenes to make a thoughtful, emotional impact. (Ann Dowd, though in a less challenging role, is of course always a gift to any movie in which she appears as well). And yet despite liking the film for much of its running time, I thought things went a bit south in the last reel, or rather, it turned into a much more typical horror film, a more stylish Paranormal Activity, if you will. It was here that whatever balance the film had between grounded drama and scares dissipated, and it became an affair that, however effectively chilling, became much more difficult for me to take seriously. It is, I think, very much a film worth checking out -- though with a warning to the squeamish -- even if I think it's not as completely successful as its best parts.

It's interesting how different a movie environment Incredibles 2 is entering than its predecessor. When the original opened in 2004, superhero movies were pretty rare -- a couple Spider-Man and X-Men movies over the previous years, with Batman basically on ice (no pun intended) after its last movie debacle. I hope I'd still find the original film a zippy, imaginative entertainment today, but I imagine part of what made it such a kick was that it felt like something fresh (even compared to the previous Pixar efforts). As Sabin says, Incredibles 2 doesn't lack for eye-popping animation, and I found it a pleasant enough watch, with some solid laughs (most of which involve Mr. Incredible trying to be a dad, and anything involving Baby Jack-Jack). But there's a degree to which this movie now feels like yet another cog in the superhero franchise machine -- the climactic action sequence, for instance, felt like something that could have just been lifted from your average Marvel movie. And the plot is a bit undercooked -- did ANYONE get much kick out of the reveal of Screenslaver's identity? The film is also strangely unemotional -- although the first Incredibles didn't have any rip-your-heart-out moments like in Up/Toy Story 3/Coco, the core family dynamic had some dramatic heft to it. This sequel feels more disposable -- not down there with a Cars sequel, but not achieving the increasingly moving heights of the Toy Story installments.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2018

Postby Sabin » Wed Jun 20, 2018 11:18 am

I have very little to say about The Incredibles 2, there is something entirely... not incredible about it. Part of it stems from the decision to launch this sequel immediately after the first one, but it can't help but come across as episodic. Fourteen years is a long time for something to feel like the next issue/episode of The Incredibles. It's an entirely entertaining couple of hours that I recommend on two fronts: 1) the animation is just superb. I could watch Brad Bird's vision of post-war America for hours, and his action scenes are a huge step up from last time. And 2) Bob being exhausted. Mr. Incredible has never been the most interesting character in this world. I found the scenes of Bob being overtired from being a stay at home parent to be endlessly funny, the joke of course being that here's a guy who is invincibly strong... and being a parent just wipes him out to the point of losing his sanity. Easy joke, very funny.

Preceding the film was an interview from the cast basically apologizing for why it took fourteen years to make the next film. Why apologize for making something special and not immediately cannibalize the legacy? I'm resigned to a new Incredibles film every few years now. The good news is, I believe they can be better than this one.
"If you are marching with white nationalists, you are by definition not a very nice person. If Malala Yousafzai had taken part in that rally, you'd have to say 'Okay, I guess Malala sucks now.'" ~ John Oliver

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2018

Postby Precious Doll » Tue Jun 19, 2018 9:14 am

The Kindergarten Teacher/Puzzle/The Wife

These three films are worth mentioning in a group simply because none of them are of any significance and all of their leading actresses (Maggie Gyllenhaal, Kelly Macdonald & Glenn Close) are in contention for a possible best actress nomination. Actually its more likely all three will miss out than even one of them winning and I think that depends on how things play out for their respective films and who else emerges.

My personal favourite of the three is Kelly Macdonald in Puzzle. Its a very conventional film, typical of American independent cinema about an ordinary American housewife that discovers she has a talent for putting jigsaw puzzles together in a timely manner and this gift leads to a widening of her world view. The film follows the usual trajectory of the genre, its competently directed but the big draw card is Macdonald. The supporting case are all fine.

Close is good in The Wife but nothing more. She's also the best thing about a generally high-minded cliched, I should have seen the twist coming but I really wasn't that invested in what what unfolding on the screen. Jonathan Pryce & Max Irons are handed thankless roles and Christian Slater lays on the sleaze in his usual reliable fashion. Directed by Björn Runge with a big serving of self importance, it's an empty vessel in search of soul.

Interestingly, Puzzle and The Wife are due to open within 3 weeks of each other by Sony Classics. It's good to see distributors opening more adult fare during the US summer and undoubtably their respective performances at the box office and with critics will determine any Oscar love.

The Kindergarten Teacher is for me a bit more problematic for me. I rewatched the original 2014 Israeli film a couple of weeks ago as I knew this was coming up and wanted to be able to make a fresh comparison as I hadn't seen the 2014 film since 2015. Whilst the basic plot remains intact much dialogue has been changed and the nuances of Nadav Lapid's film are lost in translation. Still, until the rather dramatic plot turning point later in the film, this film worked reasonably well on its on terms even if it tended to spell everything out, unlike Lapid's film which was somewhat elusive.

Maggie Gyllenhaal is not too bad in the role but she can't hold a candle to the work of Sarit Larry. The obsession with the child with a gift for poetry was so much better handled by Larry whose work is far more subtle than Gyllenhaal is even allowed. I understand that audiences and critics have been very taken with this American remake and I'm assuming that they haven't seen the original film, which is probably just as well. Netflix have the US rights to the film and it will be something of a coup for them if they can score Gyllenhaal a best actress nomination.

Must say I am very interested in how these three female led films play out critically and commercially and what, if any, impact that has on their respective actress chances.
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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2018

Postby dws1982 » Mon Jun 18, 2018 10:01 am

Mister Tee wrote: There's also the tired "teachers want to medicate our boys; they don't understand they're just boisterous" hokum that right-wingers like to promote.

Uhhh...over-medication is actually a very serious problem facing adolescents (mostly boys) today. Haven't seen the movie, and don't know how it portrays the issue (in my experience teachers generally don't encourage medication, for ethical and liability reasons, although maybe it was different in the 90's when these protagonists were in school), but over-medication is a huge issue with negative side effects (both in the short term, and in the long term) that I see all the time in my job and out of it with friends/family members.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2018

Postby Okri » Sun Jun 17, 2018 5:27 pm

Saw Hereditary to take a break from American politics. Very well done. The sound design is insanely good, as is Toni Collette.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2018

Postby anonymous1980 » Sat Jun 16, 2018 5:00 am

OCEAN'S 8
Cast: Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, Mindy Kaling, Sarah Paulson, Rihanna, Akwafina, Richard Armitage, James Corden, Elliott Gould, Shaobo Qin, Dakota Fanning, Katie Holmes.
Dir: Gary Ross.

This is an all-female entry into the Ocean's 11 franchise has Danny Ocean's estranged sister Debbie rounding up a crew to rob the Met Gala of a $150 million diamond necklace. What else can I say? It's about as good as you may think it's gonna be. If you enjoyed the light, fluffy, fun guy Ocean's 11, there's no reason to suggest that this is any different. Yes, it's fun to see these fine actresses ham it up and have a good time with their roles (Anne Hathaway, in particular, is the standout) but that's really all there is there. Just a light fluffy heist film with a good amount of laughs and a fair amount of excitement. There's nothing wrong with that.

Oscar Prospects: Costume Design a remote possibility particularly the Met Gala sequence.

Grade: B

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2018

Postby Mister Tee » Sat Jun 16, 2018 12:14 am

Not that I had any reason to expect the 15:17 to Paris would be good (reviews were pretty downbeat), but I was honestly shocked at just how bad a movie it is -- almost a non-movie, really. The central event occupies only about six minutes of screen-time, and the 75 or so minutes leading up to it are often-meandering filler.

Bad filler, at that: the opening sequence from the guys' schoolboy days is truly awful, seeming to seriously suggest a bunch of war-lovin' guys would be the objects of constant bullying. (In my experience, such guys are far more commonly the bulliers.) There's also the tired "teachers want to medicate our boys; they don't understand they're just boisterous" hokum that right-wingers like to promote. Much as I like much of Eastwood's work, there are times when I'm forcibly reminded he's the guy who talked inanely to a chair at the Republican convention.

And then there's an inexplicably lengthy European travelogue section -- the guys decide to go on a jaunt to multiple countries on the continent, and we just follow them around as they do nothing of interest, and nothing that builds to anything except, at long last -- after about half an hour -- the fateful train trip.

And even there the film fails for me, by neglecting to deal with the one truly tantalizing element in the narrative. (SPOILER ALERT FOR THOSE WHO HAVEN'T SEEN THE FILM, OR DON'T REMEMBER IT FROM WHEN IT OCCURRED.) One of our three main guys sees the armed terrorist advancing with his ammunition-rich weapon and makes a run at him. This would almost surely have led to his death -- the guy had a clear shot at him -- but, by some miracle, the weapon jammed, enabling our hero to get to him and ultimately disarm him. Eastwood shows this, for sure, but he doesn't delve into it at all. Surely the guy must have had some feeling about this -- that he was blessed, or simply uncannily lucky. But the film is content to just turn it into "if there's a crisis, you have to do something" moral lesson -- despite the fact that 99 out of 100 people wouldn't have had that dumb luck, and the act would have been suicidal. It typifies the film's dramatic and moral emptiness that this chance at exploring nuance is passed over for cheap heroics.

Of course, this isn't to suggest what the guy did wasn't brave. I can admire his raw courage, and be happy it led to such a positive outcome. I'm sure Eastwood felt this, too, and it's why he hired the three guy to play themselves. Unhappily, that choice has disastrous impact on the film: the presence of non-actors in the primary roles makes the film even worse than it would be based on its poor screenplay.

I don't know when Eastwood last made a film this bad. A grievous disappointment.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2018

Postby anonymous1980 » Fri Jun 15, 2018 6:41 am

INCREDIBLES 2
Cast: Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Samuel L. Jackson, Sarah Vowell, Huckleberry Milner, Catherine Keener, Bob Odenkirk, Jonathan Banks, Brad Bird, Sophia Bush, Phil LaMarr, Isabella Rossellini, John Ratzenberger, Michael Bird (voices).
Dir: Brad Bird.

Ever since the end credits rolled on the first movie, I've so wanted a sequel to The Incredibles, in my opinion, probably the best superhero movie ever made. Now, FOURTEEN years later, we finally get it. Did it live up to the expectations? Did it disappoint? Yes and no to both questions. The film starts right where the first one left off: Battling the Underminer and them getting into trouble again since superheroes are still person non grata in this world. A billionaire offers to facilitate a way to legalize super-heroism again but a villain plans to put a kibosh on those plans. Once again, the film has a lot of laughs and a lot of thrills, combining a family comedy with superhero action. But sadly, it's not quite as good as the original which is the worst thing I can say about it. It's still an excellent animated adventure feature but it's not even PIXAR's best sequel (second best, yes.)

Oscar Prospects: Animated Feature nomination for sure but I don't know if it's gonna win. However, the short that precedes it, Bao is a likely nominee and a potential winner in the Animated Short category.

Grade: B+

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2018

Postby anonymous1980 » Sun Jun 10, 2018 5:02 am

JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM
Cast: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Rafe Spall, Jeff Goldblum, James Cromwell, Ted Levine, Justice Smith, Daniella Pineda, B.D. Wong, Toby Jones, Isabella Sermon, Geraldine Chaplin.
Dir: J.A. Bayona.

The volcano in Isla Nublar, where the now defunct Jurassic World theme park is located, is about to erupt and they have to try and save at least some of the dinosaurs but the people in charge have less than altruistic intentions. The plot is pretty much lifted almost directly from The Lost World: Jurassic Park but the ridiculousness is so high, I often have trouble trying to suspend some of my disbelief as I've always done in movies like these. However, Spanish director J.A. Bayona effectively infuses some of his visual storytelling flair which made The Orphanage and A Monster Calls effective genre pictures which gives life to the film, at least in the climactic scenes. Is it a good film? Eh, I guess it's okay overall.

Oscar Prospects: Visual Effects.

Grade: C+

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2018

Postby Mister Tee » Thu Jun 07, 2018 11:59 pm

I'm surprised BJ failed to note the one thing about First Reformed that immediately jumped out at me: Paul Schrader has performed a massive act of self-plagiarism, virtually re-writing his Taxi Driver script.

(SOME SPOILERS WILL FOLLOW, AS IT'S THE ONLY WAY TO FULLY MAKE MY POINT)

You have a isolated man suffering psychic pain in the aftermath of a disastrous war. He's putting his feverish thoughts into a journal, which we hear in voice-over. He becomes obsessed with the filth he sees all around him (the urban chaos of NY in the 70s now extended to the entire polluted planet). He has contempt for the bureaucrats who answer his questions with platitudes. He begins to contemplate a violent act in response to all this (an act that's aborted). His great redemptive relationship is with a younger, fair-haired girl, for whom he cares more than anyone else.

I'm not saying there's nothing more to the movie. There are all the elements BJ cites, and for the first hour I was intrigued by how Schrader was addressing many of his long-time passions, wondering how the film was going to take them somewhere satisfying. But once I saw that Hawke had held onto the (not to be completely spoiler-y) object, I had a sinking feeling I knew where the film was going (because I'd seen it before), and it wasn't very interesting waiting half an hour to get there. (I was supposed to know Hawke's plan, wasn't I? Because both Hawke's penultimate scene with Seyfried ("Don't come to the consecration") and his set-to with the megachurch guy ("I'll go to rehab after the consecration") made it feel really obvious that's where things were going.) Granted, the very ending was slightly unpredictable (chiefly by being "what did that mean?"), but not enough to offset that long stretch where I felt the plot had played out.

I certainly respect Ethan Hawke as a serious guy who wants to do significant cinema, but I can't say I felt he did anything here that much elevated the material. (If, like me you're mentally comparing him to deNiro, it's no contest.) I thought Amanda Seyfried gave by far the film's best performance...though all the actors were at least solid.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2018

Postby dws1982 » Mon Jun 04, 2018 11:32 am

The Rider
It may be more-or-less played out in theaters, so you may have to wait for video/streaming, but this is very much worth seeing. It's about a rodeo rider trying to make sense of his life in the aftermath of a near-fatal accident. Worth seeing alone because of the world it depicts--it's set in a location and among a group of people who are almost never shown in contemporary movies. Almost recalls John Ford in its depiction of community--these people live and breathe the land that they live on. A movie like this could've easily fallen into one of two camps: wallowing in misery, and showing the guy be a bad-ass and push through the pain (and potential injury), but Claire Zhao shows shades of both as the main character wrestles with the loss of a lifetime dream--and something he probably believed was his only way out of a cycle of poverty--and then ultimately, gradually, maybe, begins to see a way that he might be able to function in his new life. A lovely movie, with truly excellent cinematography.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2018

Postby anonymous1980 » Sun Jun 03, 2018 11:02 am

REVENGE
Cast: Matilda Lutz, Kevin Janssens, Vincent Colombe, Guillaume Bouchede.
Dir: Coralie Fargeat.

After a young woman is raped and left for dead by her rich married boyfriend and his two hunting buddies, she rises up and gets her...well, revenge. Saw this on Netflix. The plot, along with its title, is quite generic. There's an entire sub-genre of B-movie horror-thrilers that pretty much follows the same formula. However, this one is written with a lot of intelligence and nuance and despite it being essentially a B-movie, it has A-movie aesthetics with its gorgeous cinematography. it makes itself quite relevant in the current #MeToo atmosphere. It does get a little over-the-top and a tad unbelievable at times but it still delivers on all the goods of the revenge horror genre and then some. It's definitely a film that will get people talking, for better or worse.

Oscar Prospects: None.

Grade: B+

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2018

Postby anonymous1980 » Sat Jun 02, 2018 1:50 pm

Reza wrote:
Can animated films be nominated for production design? Isn't that part of the animation?


Yes. Animated films are eligible for production design (but none have been nominated before). It's part of the animation but a production designer still has to design it. However, in the case of stop-motion animated films, there are actual real-life sets that are designed and built where they animate the puppets in so it's really no different from a live-action film (just smaller).

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2018

Postby Reza » Sat Jun 02, 2018 1:12 pm

anonymous1980 wrote:ISLE OF DOGS
Cast: Bryan Cranston, Koyu Rankin, Edward Norton, Bob Balaban, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Konichi Nomura, Greta Gerwig, Frances McDormand, Scarlett Johansson, Harvey Keitel, Liev Schreiber, Akira Ito, F. Murray Abraham, Tilda Swinton, Yoko Ono, Akira Takayama, Ken Watanabe, Courtney B. Vance, Kara Hayward (voices).
Dir: Wes Anderson.

After an outbreak of dog flu, the dog-hating mayor of a futuristic/retro Japanese city decrees all dogs be moved to a remote island. A young boy flies to the island looking for his beloved pooch. I have to say this is my favorite film of the year so far. I am a huge Wes Anderson fan and I pretty much have liked or loved most of his films. This is yet another jewel in his oeuvre. I'm also a fan of Japanese cinema and as such, there's plenty to love here since it's such a loving tribute. The animation is gorgeous and the voice cast is superb. A quick word about the minor controversy surrounding this film, which seems to have died down now: I'm not Japanese but I am of Asian descent and I found nothing wrong about this film. It's simply a beautifully well-told story, no more, no less.

Oscar Prospects: Since its competition seems to be sequels, I think this could WIN Best Animated Feature. Deserves nominations for Production Design and Original Score as well.

Grade: A.


Can animated films be nominated for production design? Isn't that part of the animation?

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2018

Postby anonymous1980 » Sat Jun 02, 2018 10:08 am

ISLE OF DOGS
Cast: Bryan Cranston, Koyu Rankin, Edward Norton, Bob Balaban, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Konichi Nomura, Greta Gerwig, Frances McDormand, Scarlett Johansson, Harvey Keitel, Liev Schreiber, Akira Ito, F. Murray Abraham, Tilda Swinton, Yoko Ono, Akira Takayama, Ken Watanabe, Courtney B. Vance, Kara Hayward (voices).
Dir: Wes Anderson.

After an outbreak of dog flu, the dog-hating mayor of a futuristic/retro Japanese city decrees all dogs be moved to a remote island. A young boy flies to the island looking for his beloved pooch. I have to say this is my favorite film of the year so far. I am a huge Wes Anderson fan and I pretty much have liked or loved most of his films. This is yet another jewel in his oeuvre. I'm also a fan of Japanese cinema and as such, there's plenty to love here since it's such a loving tribute. The animation is gorgeous and the voice cast is superb. A quick word about the minor controversy surrounding this film, which seems to have died down now: I'm not Japanese but I am of Asian descent and I found nothing wrong about this film. It's simply a beautifully well-told story, no more, no less.

Oscar Prospects: Since its competition seems to be sequels, I think this could WIN Best Animated Feature. Deserves nominations for Production Design and Original Score as well.

Grade: A.


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