Thursday, September 20, 2018

Hundred-Word Review - "Crazy Rich Asians" (2018)

"Crazy Rich Asians" is a surprisingly uplifting and stylish breath of fresh air in 2018, offering a vibrant, tantalizing glance at another culture while being supported by wonderful onscreen chemistry between Constance Wu and Henry Golding. But in this film about an heir to a wealthy family coming home to Singapore and to show his middle-class girlfriend, it is the mother that stands out due to Michelle Yeoh's performance as the domineering yet sophisticated and restrained matriarchy that steals the show, always commanding the room. In an age where romantic comedies have faded, this was a pleasant change of pace.

Final Grade: B-

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Movie Review - "The Predator" (2018)

While I've never been a big Predator fan, I was onboard with this movie when I learned Shane Black was writing and directing it. The man behind "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang," "Iron Man 3" and the writer of the "Lethal Weapon" movies, Black has always found that perfect middle ground between intense, gripping action and sharp, witty dialogue and making both feel seamlessly intertwined.

Unfortunately, that is not what we get in "The Predator." Instead, we get a muddy, disorganized and hateful movie that doesn't feel connected to the Predator franchise at all. Unfunny and over-reliant on CGI gore, this doesn't even work as a popcorn flick.

The purpose of this movie feels unclear and unfocused. In this tale of Predators arriving in a southern suburban town on Halloween and the group of mercenaries and scientists tasked to take them down, they switch wildly between making these characters relatable and loathsome, trying to play off undesirable behavior as quirky without any explanation or analysis. The filmmakers also seem to forget why these aliens came to our planet, as their motivations swing as much as the likability of our leads. This contributes to an overwhelmingly confusing mess of a gorefest.

The only redeeming qualities are Jacob Tremblay as the main character's autistic son, who gets the most development without shoving autism in the audiences' face, and the mythology building it does for the Predator race by giving them more of a reason to hunt besides the thrill of it. These two elements work even better as they come together to make a fascinatingly positive message to those who deal with autism. While it may not have much else going for it, at least it treats Jacob Tremblay with respect. Even if the action sequences are laughable, the underlying theme is strong.

Final Grade: D+

Monday, September 17, 2018

Hundred-Word Review - "Johnny Belinda" (1948)

The only thing "Johnny Belinda" has going for it is Jane Wyman's jaw-dropping subtle yet heartfelt performance in which she communicates so much heartache and anguish without saying a word. Wyman plays a young deaf-mute woman on an isolated Canadian island, who the whole town labels as "the dummy," when the new doctor (Lew Ayers) makes an effort to communicate with her. While this is certainly a period piece that plays on the isolation and fears of the townsfolk, everything else is done with so little passion that it doesn't leave an impact, only Wyman's skill as a visual storyteller excelling.

Final Grade: C

Hundred-Word Review - "Midnight Lace" (1960)

"Midnight Lace" plays out like a psychological thriller by Hitchcock, though without the flair for the dramatic, in both cinematography and storytelling. Doris Day plays an American heiress in London, who is threatened by an unknown assailant, though Day cannot convince anyone that he exists, including the police or her husband (Rex Harrison). While the filmmakers get you second-guessing our distraught protagonist through Day's outbursts and lack of evidence, the pacing never picks up beyond a dull roar to keep this thriller from going anywhere substantial. Effectively captivating as a guessing game, but doesn't have much else going for it.

Final Grade: C+

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Movie Review - "Searching" (2018)

If Alfred Hitchcock were still making films today, what would they be like? An auteur that manipulated the fears of men and society like a puppetmaster, showcasing flawed, broken people in unnerving and relentlessly thrilling scenarios. Now imagine that element set in modern society, especially since we live in an age where our every action and thought becomes immortal and criticized through the internet and social media, for better and worse. We see so many more sides to people through a computer screen, sides that we may not want to see. At some point, they may not even seem like the same person.

Hitchcock would have had a fear field day if he ever got a Twitter account.

This is what makes "Searching" such a moving yet thrilling experience that should not be missed. It delves into the depths of social media and the questionable life choices we make on there; how what we say or do on these sites shows shades that we'd rather forget, much less acknowledge.

While I would first describe "Searching" as if "Gone Girl" was done in the style of "Unfriended" - a thriller about a missing girl shown entirely from the perspective of her father's (John Cho) computer screen - it has more in common with "Rear Window" in its themes of voyeurism and fixed perspective. Yet the film is surprisingly poignant about how our limited point-of-view through social media can skew and cloud our judgment. Yet put in a similar situation, we all would act like the father.

But despite these prevailing themes, "Searching" is still an effective and unique thriller, going through a roller coaster of emotions and using its computer screen point-of-view to the fullest. This film exemplifies "less is more" without ever sacrificing the scope of this heart-wrenching story about timely fears.

Final Grade: A

Hundred-Word Review - "Pillow Talk" (1959)

I've been convinced that Doris Day can do no wrong. In "Pillow Talk," Day plays a independent interior decorator who shares a party-line with a playboy song writer (Rock Hudson), as they continually butt heads over control of the phone and each others' private lives. While the film sets the stage for many mistaken identity romantic comedies, it is the strength of Day's performance as a witty, outspoken woman that knows what she wants and isn't afraid to step on some toes to get there, leading to some great comedy and chemistry with the brick wall that is Rock Hudson.

Final Grade: B+

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Hundred-Word Review - "The Pirate" (1948)

Why is it that Gene Kelly keeps playing creepy, unsettling jerks in every movie, besides "Singin' in the Rain"? In "The Pirate," Kelly plays a traveling performer in the Caribbean, always trying to put the moves on every woman he sees, until he meets Manuela (Judy Garland) and tries to hypnotize her to fall in love with him, despite Manuela rejecting his offers every time. While the lengths that he goes to forcibly wins this girls' heart are absurdly entertaining, his whole act of wowing her felt chauvinistic and disgusting, making "The Pirate" overwhelmingly unsettling. It is incredibly out-dated.

Final Grade: C-