Film Reviews, page 5

  1. The Shallows

    Film, 2016

    Watched 9 June 2017

    This is exactly like The Revenant, except much more focused and actually able to get under my skin at times.

    Films with brutally simple plots (not simplistic, mind you) executed well seem to be a rare delight these days. Bonus points: under ninety minutes.

  2. John Wick: Chapter 2

    Film, 2017

    Watched 4 June 2017

    A bit too much of the original’s blunt simplicity is missing here, but it’s still damn good. The mirrors scene is one for the ages.

  3. Alien: Covenant

    Film, 2017

    Watched 20 May 2017

    If you thought characters did stupid shit in Prometheus, wait ‘til you see this one. Ridley Scott is more concerned with establishing capricious moments than he is with putting out a coherent film, it seems.

    This is a hopelessly misguided doubling-down on everything Prometheus got wrong, but with that film’s amazing production design and worldbuilding completely removed. Future humans on an interstellar colonization mission are literally still using GoPros.

    The classic Alien title sequence is reused, but it’s no longer the opening shot, and it’s sped-up. Instead of yielding an atmosphere of slow-burn creepiness, we get low-attention-span throwback. And that sadly matches up pretty well with what Alien: Covenant feels like.

    The creatures are as cool as ever, though.

  4. Get Out

    Film, 2017

    Watched 9 May 2017

    This strikes a brilliant balance between creepy and fun — it manages to be both things at once, without either detracting from the other. It’s built entirely with this duality as a central mechanic, and does a great job of exploring its limits.

    I saw one of the big twists coming miles away (avoiding spoilers, let’s call it “the box of photos”), so I wondered if this could have worked even better as a Touch of Evil-esque “the audience knows what’s coming” kind of deal. But then I realized that having a nagging feeling that that is what’s going on is really well aligned with the film’s themes and so now I’m thinking I want to watch this again.

  5. Shin Godzilla

    Film, 2016

    Watched 29 March 2017

    Godzilla emerges.

    Down to the dramatic putting-down of phones and title card fetish, this is exactly what I was hoping for: a live-action manifestation of Hideaki Anno’s cinematic obsessions with giant monsters, heavy machinery, and the flaws of humanity.

    It’s just missing that extra bit of directorial precision he manages to pull off with animation, especially in terms of acting and camerawork.

  6. Godzilla

    Film, 2014

    Rewatched 23 March 2017

    Don’t let anyone ever tell you that the monsters don’t show up enough in this movie.

    The Ligeti-scored skydiving scene and the atomic breath reveal are just as awesome as I remembered them. This stands up as one of the most gripping giant monster movies ever.

  7. Kong: Skull Island

    Film, 2017

    Watched 17 March 2017

    This is nothing to write home about, but it’s a solid monster movie. Which is all I was hoping for, really.

    The tone is the polar opposite of Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla — it feels fun instead of tense. That in itself is perfectly okay, but I wish it could have kept some of that Jurassic Park-like subtlety that worked so well for Godzilla.

  8. Midnight Special

    Film, 2016

    Watched 3 March 2017

    Like a lot of mystery stories, some of the excitement starts to fade as the curtain is pulled back. And then it almost becomes a matter of taste: you may or may not like where it goes. I wasn’t amazed by the destination, but I quite enjoyed the journey on this one.

    For an admittedly small film it dares to feel big, and for all its tension it manages to find some serenity. And it does those things without appearing contrived. It feels balanced, distinct, and personal.

  9. Passengers

    Film, 2016

    Watched 1 March 2017

    This film is the cinematic equivalent of clickbait: begging you to look at it while having nothing to say.

    Few films have given me a harder time suspending disbelief. No part of it has any depth. Not the plot, not the dialogue, not the sci-fi, not the romance. And it has the nerve to acknowledge its hollow meaninglessness when that crappy Imagine Dragons song comes on in the end.

    I really enjoyed Morten Tyldum’s other films Imitation Game and Headhunters, but this is some lowest-common-denominator garbage. It does look pretty, tho.

  10. Redbelt

    Film, 2008

    Watched 24 February 2017

    Supporting characters could have been a lot better, and some of the dialogue tries so hard to be “realistic” that it goes right back down the uncanny valley. But overall this is a solid 90-minute gem that can keep its intrigue from start to finish. Tightly plotted, executing well on its themes.

  11. The Girl with All the Gifts

    Film, 2016

    Watched 19 February 2017

    Nothing this film attempts to do differently manages to set it free from the curse of zombie sameyness.

  12. Nocturnal Animals

    Film, 2016

    Watched 12 February 2017

    I’m a sucker for dark, velvety thrillers, and this one worked pretty well for me. The bleak tone had me completely hooked within five minutes. Though it sometimes feels a bit derivative (some moments were especially on-the-nose Lynchian), I cannot deny that it’s effective. It is a dexterously unsettling film.

    Tom Ford is, no doubt, a sharp aesthete. What I wasn’t expecting was a very palpable feeling of futility and hopelessness as the other side of the coin, and impostor syndrome as a plot device. It works well in adding some substance to the style.

    Pretty great for a film about spiteful, vengeful assholery. It’s not an easy theme to pull off.

  13. La La Land

    Film, 2016

    Watched 6 February 2017

    Not being a fan of musicals, I often found myself wondering if La La Land would work better as a more straightforward drama without all the singing and dancing. But it managed to convince me that the music is what makes it work — it’s the otherwise unattainable mix of spectacle and candor that makes it so compelling.

    But I’m not convinced it’s as timeless as it clearly wants to be. I’m curious to find out if this one ages as well as I’m sure Ryan Gosling will.

  14. Inferno

    Film, 2016

    Watched 27 January 2017

    I would complain at length about the cheap twist (and quite a few other things) if it weren’t for the fact that the entire premise is based on a bafflingly convoluted evil masterplan treasure hunt for which there is absolutely no attempt at an explanation. “Dan Brown wrote it” doesn’t count.