Thursday, March 23, 2017

Frank & Lola

I feel like I've seen so many versions of this film before, that of the spurned man and the wily, game-playing woman. The man feels the cuckold, he goes a little nuts, the plot thickens... you know the story. This version wasn't especially different or more interesting than others - I saw it all coming a mile away. The one thing that was better than average was Imogen Poots in the female lead role. She was rather spectacular, but not enough to raise this above three stars. Just average for me. 3/5

Frank & Lola on Netflix

Nocturnal Animals

I don't know about this one. It was trying so hard to be a slick, deep, noir thriller. It was pretty, I'll give it that. But the story... it never goes anywhere. I'm all for metaphor and layers of meaning, especially if it's non-linear, but you've got to give me something to work with, and I felt this film didn't deliver on that front. I can make all kinds of suppositions, but that's all they are. There's no real "there" there, at least none that I could get behind. It's pretty but very empty, and I ultimately didn't enjoy it, so this is nothing more than average for me. 3/5

Nocturnal Animals on Netflix

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Papa: Hemingway in Cuba

This was a good story that could have been great. The acting was very solid - Ribisi is as marvelous as ever. The direction was also solid and compelling. The problem was that I felt the script lacked depth in both story and character. I wanted more roundness to the people I was invested in and more insight into their motivations. I feel like many things may have gotten lost on a cutting room floor that would have made this picture much stronger. Still, a good film that tells a true tale. 3/5

Papa: Hemingway in Cuba on Netflix

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Visions

From the trailers, I thought this would be very much in the "Rosemary's Baby" wheelhouse, but it wasn't. It had more of a supernatural flair, with a plot I found pretty interesting and a climax I didn't expect. The acting was decent, but not great, It was entertaining, but it lacked character and story depth that could have sold it much better. Just okay for me. 3/5

Visions on Netflix

The Sea of Trees

I have to start this review by noting something. When "The Forest" was released, there was a lot of backlash against the film, saying it didn't do justice to Japan's "suicide forest" and Japanese culture. I think that if we, as a culture, are going to point out when a film does something wrong, as was the case with "The Forest", we should also be ready to point out when one does it right. "The Sea of Trees" is the film that those bashing "The Forest" wanted to see. It is a reverent, dark, tragic, and yet ultimately uplifting and magical film about the culture of suicide, both in Japan and in America. It is some of the best work Gus Van Sant has done of late, and one of the most powerful performances McConaughey has given in a while. It is thoughtful, slow paced, and very packed with emotions. I went from weeping to laughing to weeping again before it was over. "The Sea of Trees" should be celebrated as the film many wanted to see made. I know I very much loved it. 4.5/5

The Sea of Trees on Netflix

Friday, March 17, 2017

The Edge of Seventeen

This is a wonderful, sweet, laugh out loud funny, endearing, and sometimes dark coming of age story. I really loved it - it had a heart and a humor that blended so well together. I went between laughing loudly, cringing, sighing with relief, and tragically sad throughout the film. The acting was wonderful, the direction very good. I highly enjoyed this film. 4.5/5

The Edge of Seventeen on Netflix

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Passengers

I'm struggling to find words here to express how angry I am at this movie. From a purely filmmaking standpoint, this is a good film. The acting is strong, the script fairly well written, the direction tight and cohesive. But the story. Oh, gods, this story. I'm stunned this script made it past studio executives and test audiences without someone screaming how utterly, terribly, horridly violating and rapine this story truly is. I really don't think I've ever seen a movie that more glorified rape culture, or forced us to sympathize with a criminal, disturbed male oppressor and require us to thus thoroughly shame his victim. Pratt's character violates Lawrence's in pretty much every way possible, and yet he is portrayed as the hero and she the clumsy, harpy, shrill woman who doesn't appreciate her partner's abuse. It's like watching a cut of "Room" where Brie Larson's character was portrayed as a nasty, sullen, uncaring witch who just doesn't appreciate how wonderful she has it in this garden shed made for her by the man who "loves" her so much. I feel sick after seeing this, I really do. I normally forgive far more than I really should when it comes to the glorification of rape culture, but I can't condone this. Not this. 2.5/5

Passengers on Netflix

Monday, March 13, 2017

No Men Beyond This Point

This mockumentary is so good and so funny and rings so scarily true that it's a little frightening. The acting and script were excellent. I don't want to say much about the plot as the world of this film is really interesting, but it kept me completely glued to my screen. I highly recommend this, especially if you love mockumentaries like I do. 4.5/5

No Men Beyond This Point on Netflix

Scenic Route

I rented this at the same time I rented "Curve" this week. Both films had similar plots concerning being stranded alone in a fight for survival. I said in my review for "Curve" that films with this type of plot either go quite wrong, as "Curve" did, or very very right. This film does it really right. The acting is stellar - Duhamel and Fogler really put it all on the line for this. The direction is tight and gripping, and the script is just great. But the piece de resistance is the ending, which is just absolutely perfect. A wonderful film and a great thriller. 4.5/5

Scenic Route on Netflix

Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Handmaiden

This is easily one of the best pictures of last year. I can't imagine why it wasn't nominated for multiple Academy Awards - perhaps it wasn't released in theaters? The direction is masterful. For the entirety of the film I marveled at it, so I wasn't surprised to see Park Chan-Wook's name in the credits. He's a genius, and I've been a fan of his work for many years. The story is absolutely intriguing, and the acting is top-notch. There isn't a true flaw in this film - it's a genuine masterpiece. A must see. 5/5

The Handmaiden on Netflix

Friday, March 10, 2017

Right at Your Door

This movie is FAR better than I expected. The script is excellent and the acting very solid. The twists of the plot are just so compelling, and I really didn't see where it was heading. I'm really impressed by this indie sci-fi post apocalyptic thriller - definitely give this one a chance! 4/5

Right at Your Door on Netflix

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Dead End Drive-In

I think that much my dislike of this movie comes from viewing it now, in 2017, instead of when it was released in 1986. I imagine, were I to watch "The Warriors" now for the first time, I'd think it was about the most ridiculous film I'd ever seen. This film was very much like that, which I could forgive and even get behind. However, when the film became unabashedly racist in the last half, I really checked out of it. Again, this might have been normal for 1986 Australia, but, watching it now, I just can't do it. Not for me. 1.5/5

Dead End Drive-In on Netflix

Curve

Well, this was just ridiculous from top to bottom. The science and physical logic of this film falls apart with even the slightest bit of thought, and that's just annoying as hell. Sometimes films like this turn out spectacularly, as was the case with "Wrecked" with Adrian Brody. But, more often than not, you get a badly thought-out film like this. Rent "Wrecked" instead. You'll thank me, I promise you. 2/5

Curve on Netflix

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Embrace of the Serpent

This was a fascinating film in many ways. I feel like it lives in the same world as Aronofsky's "The Fountain", in that it addresses questions about the nature of time and how relationships can weave their ways through different time streams. It was strikingly directed, and I was impressed by the acting. This film made me think, and I appreciate a film that can do that. 3.5/5

Embrace of the Serpent on Netflix

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Manchester by the Sea

Wow. I'm still blown away by this. It's a tsunami of emotion, ceaselessly and relentlessly beating the viewer with sadness and helplessness and despair. It does this without having a huge "Oscar moment". There is no break in the tension that is created by all that is left unsaid. When the film was over, I started weeping. I didn't know what else I could do. All of this is because of the performance of Casey Affleck. It was probably the most subtle acting job I've ever seen. Everything is held beneath the surface, all of his character's rage and depression and guilt over things in his past that he can never change. I waited the whole movie for him to break and shed some of the weight he was carrying, but, when the film ended, it was all the harder because he didn't. It's a masterclass of acting, and I can absolutely see why he won the Oscar. Those who won't watch this film are missing out on a performance so nuanced and deft that it will simply break your heart. Watch this film. 5/5

Mancehster by the Sea on Netflix