Kumiko the Treasure Hunter- I used to be an avid movie trailer watcher. I thought it helped me stay abreast of what was coming out and the general plot lines of upcoming films. In the past few years I stopped watching them for movies I want to see because of how misleading or ruinous they can be. Watching DVDs at home I’ve found it’s actually a good way to find movies I otherwise would have missed. This has led to more than a few gems of which I thought Kumiko might be included. The trailer didn’t give away much more than the title already did, and every piece of imagery was crafted and beautiful. To say the least, it seemed up my alley. The final outcome was pretty but it didn’t satisfy whatever urge I felt when watching the trailer. There is literally nothing wrong with this movie I just couldn’t get into it. I think it would have worked better as a comedy as the premise is odd, but it leaned darker but not dark enough. I would put this in the “drama” category with no sub-descriptions. Yeah.
Mudbound- This movie has so many untapped veins of character and setting, I never knew which way it was going to go. History (in film and in life) lead me to believe one person or another would act a certain way and thankfully this story proved me wrong at almost every turn. Dillahunt and Mitchell have so come so far from their beginnings (Mitchell the quicker study of the two) that you can’t help but see this generation’s future leading men. Hell, they already are. Carey Mulligan, Jason Clarke, Jonathan Banks, Rob Morgan and Mary J Blige support those leads in what I would call a perfectly casted movie. Morgan should probably be given a lead status as well. This is an excellent film and one of the year’s best.
The Beguiled- I thought for sure my wife would want to watch this but her reaction was “Sofia Coppola’s movies are slow as shit.” She is 1) Funny and 2) Partially, but mostly correct. Beneath whatever is happening in every Coppola movie there is a vibration and tension. On the screen and in the story maybe nothing seemingly important is occurring. There are no explosions or over the top music just strong visuals and probably Kirsten Dunst. In Beguiled Colin Farrell ratchets up the volume a hair but the strength is, of course, in the women who surround him which includes (yep) Kirsten Dunst. It is slow, methodical, purposeful and beautiful.
Lady Bird- If I could have a secret relationship with anyone, it would have to be Greta Gerwig. Our meetings would only occur atop pastel-hued buildings where egrets and Red-Tailed Hawks sometimes gather. We would smoke obscurely named cigarettes, drink absynth and she would dance while I played a cocktail drum set. Eventually, she would leave me because I wasn’t interesting enough but also because maybe we’re actually related?
She is very attractive but mainly I just want a relationship with her talent which apparently knows no defining edges. Lady Bird is funny, well-written with just the right amount of quirk and sublimely shot. Sam Levy, on loan from my arch nemesis Noah Baumbach, helps bring together a wonderful story with great direction.
National Velvet- I was born in the 80s so Elizabeth Taylor was already a fading screen legend at the time I became aware of her. My first (that’s right) film with her as the star is really starting at the beginning. I don’t even know if it’s representative of her life and career but she is obviously charismatic. I understand why she was around for so long. and the reason number one to watch this. The second is the actual horse race at the end. When you see Taylor practicing in her fields at home it’s not without a sense of danger but the chaos, noise and violence of the finale make all the previous seriousness more clear.
The Dirty Dozen- Ensemble movies are typically a lot of fun. It’s an easy formula and pleasing everyone in the crowd just means casting a diverse enough group that no one could hate every one. Unless you’re a female maybe. (Aside from Pitch Perfect and the Ocean’s 11 all-female reboot (get ready for the outcries) I can’t think of many all female movies that aren’t about teenagers). Not only is Dozens a war movie, it’s a heist/criminal/prison movie. It has almost everything a guy could want in a film and is probably the reason TBS invented that stupid “movies for guys who like movies”. You can turn your brain off and just watch your Dad’s favorite actors kill a bunch of Nazis, but there is a stronger underlying story about defying power structures while killing Nazis that make this a classic. Plus, it’s humorous and my Dad’s favorite actors are slowly becoming my favorite actors which means I’m slowly becoming my father. Well, shit.
Becket- When you’re a kid, you like pretty much everything. I don’t mean when you’re a teen and you love certain things and hate everything else but younger when you’re open to a lot more. When I was eight years old a movie called High Spirits with Steve Guttenberg and Darryl Hannah (80s gods) and Peter O’ Toole came out. Like Elizabeth Taylor, I was pretty unaware of his previous achievements and only used to him in his older age. I could say the same for Jack Lemon or Walter Matthau and you’re missing out if you don’t try to find great thespians younger work. Richard Burton (my first time seeing him as well) is the main attraction in this film and he is nailing every scene, but O’Toole’s cadence and mannerisms are so entertaining you hate to see it cutaway. The setting of early pre-Tudor ruled England sets this story apart from your typical Elizabethan or Henry the V story but if you find that boring, O’Toole talking shit to everyone around him should liven things up.
MOVIE OF THE WEEK:
Escape from Alcatraz- I was always annoyed at the cover of this movie which is Clint Eastwood breaking through a wall. I understand that it makes sense but it’s a wall floating in black space and a hand connected to nothing. I guess his scowl was enough to get by and compared to today’s bland ensemble posters it’s pretty good. The movie itself is great though. Based on a true story of the only successful Alcatraz prison escape (spoiler), you spend a lot of time with a small set of characters essentially biding their time. The fun of this movie is them (primarily Eastwood) figuring out how to overcome obstacles in the way of getting out. This is Shawshank Redemption without the narration, poetry or hindsight. There is no redemption only getting out and that it was shot on Alcatraz island makes its authenticity shine.
Geostorm- I listed my least favorite movies of the year on Facebook and someone pointed out that Geostorm should have been included or that it was equally awful. I had intended on seeing it anyway but the end of the year is fast approaching so I pushed it up in the schedule. A bad movie can be bad for a lot of reasons. I’ve tried to illustrate in my reviews that movies, even bad ones, are hard to make and that there are usually redemptive qualities. To me, the cardinal sin of a truly bad movie is laziness or resting on assuming the audience will let you slide. Sequels are notorious for this. By and large, Geostorm cares about what it’s trying to do. Working alongside the maestro of disaster Roland Emmerich, director Dean Devlin has crafted his own world-ender and the effects are varied and interesting if overblown (no pun intended). At one point, a whole building explodes as if it had been filled with dynamite. I’m sure there’s a 9/11 truther guy reading this, itching to say something, but I can’t imagine what. Maybe that George Bush controls the weather? Who the fuck knows. Anyway, this is not a smart movie but it’s not a bad one either. That a climatologist’s wet dream with scientist-as-hero got made in 2017 is incredible. Apparently Gerard Butler phoned in his performance but I can’t tell the difference.
Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri- I respect a movie that doesn’t play to the expectations of an American audience. Narrative films have preset structures they can follow which are well agreed upon but diverting from that course can be rewarding and risky. Martin McDonagh is a writer/director who can create a cast and setting that appear familiar but also unlike anything you’ve ever seen. His brother John Michael is similarly adept at this with equal outcomes so it must be in the genes. There is no one to truly root for in Three Billboards. You might think its Frances McDormand but that is quickly swept aside as the nature of the situation is explained in greater detail. There are innocents but no one is a true villain or hero and everything is shades of gray when it comes to motivations and redemption. I love all the aforementioned elements but it was cancelled out by a single event that occurs about two thirds of the way in movie. This event is so important and unlikely in its timing and reasoning that everything afterward felt slightly hollow. I never got back the feeling from the beginning.