This is a continuation on the previous post. For all the reviews of the films watched in May read Part 1.
WONDER WOMAN (2017) [ 4/5 ]
A beautifully crafted big-budget Hollywood blockbuster that manages to excel at the little things. Surely some of the source material seems at odds with the more mature theme of female empowerment but, at its conclusion, the latest DC Comics venture comes off as more than the sum of its parts. It helps that Gal Gadot is an excellent choice to play Wonder Woman.
DON’T BREATHE (2017) [ 4/5 ]
A surprisingly frightening film about what happens when the person you are trying to rob is far more sinister than you could ever hope to be. At times, Don’t Breathe resorts to horror movie clichés but, for the most part, it keeps us engaged with a simple yet cleverly executed premise. This is edge-of-your-seat suspense led by the physically imposing performance of Stephen Lang.
I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO (2016) [ 4/5 ]
More than any other modern example I can think about, the success of this documentary hinges entirely on the power and conviction of its narrator’s words. The pity is that the archival footage of James Baldwin’s interventions in American culture is finite. The tragedy is that his words resonate today almost as loudly as they did then.
We have much more work to do.
INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE (2017) [ 2.5/5 ]
If you ask me twenty years from now when I discovered Will Smith’s true value as an actor, I will undoubtedly trace it back to this franchise. The first of the ‘Independence’ films was a blockbuster juggernaut that reshaped the American blockbuster and reintroduced Will Smith to the public as a lead actor in the big screen after his much remembered stint as the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
The second entry in the franchise is likely to be the last. It started with a handicap, terribly missing Smith’s unique brand of charisma. Then it moved forward with a script that felt like more of the same, rehashing old characters, but stripping away what had made them fun the first time around.
SHAFT (2000) [ 3/5 ]
The remake released in 2000 has become a cult favorite due to its unapologetic brand of violent justice delivered by the incomparable bad-assery of Samuel L. Jackson. Far from being a good film, Shaft is simply entertaining and cool, owing much of its success to its great lead actor.
GET OUT (2017) [ 4.5/5 ]
♦ Candidate to the Blog of Big Ideas’ Top 250 Films Ever ♦
In the history of cinema there have been very few directorial debuts as confident and impressive as Jordan Peele’s much-talked about Get Out; a modern horror/thriller with the kind of subversive and timely social commentary that can advance the racial conversation in the U.S. and the world.
For being his first time as the director of a feature film, Jordan Peele’s work impressively feels like that of a careful student of cinema, creating something new out of old sources.
The best way to encapsulate the success of Get Out is by watching the early scene between Daniel Kaluuya (in a career-defining performance) and Catherine Keener (in her best ever role). This scene, above all those that come after, is a pivotal moment for the film and its director, laying the ground work for the feel and the style of the film, while showcasing the inventiveness of his script.
A truly original piece of work.
THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS (2017) [ 3/5 ]
Apart from the teenager at its center playing the part of a half zombie, half human; the characters that surround her display the kind of moral inconsistency that is typical in mediocre horror movies.
The film does offer something new to the zombie sub-genre and it has a few interesting ideas and scenes scattered throughout. Beyond that, it’s a mild and unremarkable watch.
BABY DRIVER (2017) [ 4/5 ]
Pulsating and fun; those are the words that first come to mind to describe Gareth Edwards’ latest romp.
Unlike Winding Refn’s meditative and violent driver for hire (famously played by Ryan Gosling in Drive), Edwards’ film is a far more casual, visceral and, at times, sappy rubber-meets-road soap opera that bears only superficial similarities to the film it is inevitably compared to.
Baby Driver is malevolently funny and it features some of the most over-the-top yet endlessly satisfying performances from the likes of Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx, the newcomer Eiza Gonzalez, and from that old devil who ages like a good wine: Kevin Spacey.
THE ACCOUNTANT (2017) [ 2.5/5 ]
For every success in the career of Ben Affleck there are at least 2 or more misses. It’s hard to explain how someone can do Good Will Hunting and Argo but also be involved in disasters like Gigli and The Accountant, a messy and unimaginative action flick.
Affleck is at its most subdued self here, reinforcing my belief that he can only play two types: the Boston gangster or the monotone and unemotional loner. The Accountant is a film that in its effort to be as cool as John Wick ends up being as “uncool” as its title suggests.
MOANA (2016) [ 3.5/5 ]
Like Frozen and Tangled before it, Moana has the old-school Disney aura that can be both endearing and evocative of a time when animated films did not dare to be much more than stories made for children.
As well crafted as Moana is, the film’s message and storyline is one we have seen before, but having gone through a societal update that makes it palatable to demographics that were either underrepresented or misrepresented.
Its music could have used a bit more development.
DUNKIRK (2017) [ 4.5/5 ]
♦ Candidate to the Blog of Big Ideas’ Top 250 Films Ever ♦
A remarkable achievement for the widely acclaimed director Christopher Nolan that retells the tale of the very important campaign to evacuate Allied forces out of France at the height of Nazi aggression. Unlike other films interested in war, Dunkirk remains intimate despite its largesse, finding human stories that are engaging and moving.
In true Nolan fashion, the film is also a work of the highest craftmanship and precision, cleverly juggling different time lines and points of view with ease. Dunkirk is a tour-de-force by a director who is used to delighting us. As such, the film deserves a full review, which I can hopefully complete soon.
VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS (2017) [ 2.5/5 ]
While it can’t be faulted for a lack of world-building ambition, Valerian is a film that wastes most of the good ideas and characters it explores. More importantly, this is a film with a lackluster script that spends a significant amount of running time trying to sell us a non-existing chemistry between its leads. This is the first misstep in the young career of Dane Deehan, and a considerable fumble for Luc Besson.
THE LOST CITY OF Z (2017) [ 3.5/5 ]
I would have perhaps appreciated The Lost City of Z a bit more had I not seen Werner Herzog’s seminal film: Aguirre, The Wrath of God. As good as Charlie Hunnam is in this movie, he is not Klaus Kinski. As convincing and atmospheric as James Gray’s Amazon Jungle is here, it is not nearly as beautifully oppressive and frightening as Herzog’s rendition. As dizzyingly poetic as the ending managed to be, very few movies can compare to the despair and insanity that defines the ending of Aguirre.
I know it’s not entirely fair to judge a movie based on the merit of a predecessor, but in the arts, nothing is more informative than our references and our shared human history.
A full review coming soon…hopefully!
HAIL CAESAR! (2016) [ 3.5/5 ]
As ludicrously funny as the latest Coen brothers’ film is, there is nothing in this mixture of satire and homage to Old Hollywood that feels transcendental. As much as the trailers would have you believe this is a film with George Clooney front and center, I was pleasantly surprised to watch Josh Brolin as the lead in one of his best roles yet. A hoot from beginning to end, but not up to the level of other Coen classics.