Friday, September 28, 2018
"Mandy" is a breathtakingly psychedelic trip that finds a strange middle ground between strong characterization and heavy metal storytelling. While the pacing of the first half takes a slow, almost David Lynch-like approach where its surreal violence takes time to wear on the audience, the second half plays out like a metal rock song that uses sharp, almost disturbing imagery that invokes songs from bands like Led Zeppelin. Yet at the center of this lies a strong emotional core. Combine this with yet another insane performance from Nicholas Cage, and you get the most unforgettable revenge tales in recent memory.
Final Grade: B+
Thursday, September 27, 2018
I get what "Funny Girl" was going for - a film about a woman (Barbara Streisand) who relies far more on natural talent, singing prowess and comedy than beauty or sex appeal set in a time when women couldn't be in show business if they weren't attractive. The problem is that this theme and period piece gets muddled by a rather forgettable and uninspired romance with a gambler (Omar Sharif). This plot keeps going around in circles, since Sharif and Streisand show little on-screen chemistry and seem rather distant. Now this forgettable film is only remembered for launching Streisand's film career.
Final Grade: C-
Wednesday, September 26, 2018
It is very quickly established that "Pride of the Yankees" was made as a tribute to one of the greatest and most beloved baseball players ever, Lou Gehrig. The film was released one year after Gehrig died of ALS, had the most loved actor in Hollywood portray the baseball star, Gary Cooper, and starred many teammates of Gehrig, including Babe Ruth. As a bio-pic, the film only casts an overwhelmingly positive light on Gehrig, hardly ever showing him going through any hardships or challenges until his death, which can be attributed to making this film so close to the tragedy.
Final Grade: B-
Monday, September 24, 2018
Having never watched the supposed train wreck that was "Mamma Mia!," I went in to this with zero expectations and only having heard a few ABBA songs. The result was a fine time with a few heavy moments that I did not expect to see here, especially with its almost "Godfather Part II"-like storytelling and editing, juxtaposing the conflicts and loves of the mother against the success and affection of her daughter. Maybe it is because of the lack of musicals nowadays, but the elaborate dance numbers and genuine passion for song elevates this far more than it normally would.
Final Grade: B-
Saturday, September 22, 2018
Did Winnie the Pooh have to be so unbelievably dark and dreary? I know we're in the age of gritty reboots and reimaginings, but I would have thought Pooh was immune to that. "Christopher Robin" feels like the flashback scenes in "Saving Mr. Banks" that everyone forgets - a depressing story that contradicts the whimsy of these Disney characters. While scenes in the Hundred-Acre Wood remain as heart-warming and optimistically naive as I remember, the scenes in London and the color palette are so dismal that it takes most of the fun out of this look at an adult Christopher Robin.
Final Grade: C+
Friday, September 21, 2018
I would say that "A Simple Favor" is yet another attempt to cash in on "Gone Girl," but that would be doing this film a disservice. While "Spy" and "Bridesmaids" director Paul Feig adds his usual modernly witty touch to many scenes, Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively turn in the best performances of their careers as women with engaging yet deeply self-absorbed motives for the dark seductive game they play, painting a tangled web of morally confused and tortured souls. This film perfectly blends together thrills and laughs, while always remaining charismatic and charming, almost the opposite of "Gone Girl."
Final Grade: B+
Thursday, September 20, 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
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
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
"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
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
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
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-