Cinebites: #2

Welcome to my mini movie review series. I watch a lot of movies and I thought it’d be fun to share a few thoughts on some of the things I’ve watched.

These are all SPOILER FREE reviews so you can enjoy these films at your leisure.

I Don’t Feel at Home in This World (2017)

I’m not sure how I feel about Netflix getting into the movie game or how it’ll change the industry but if it keeps popping out flicks like this odd ball film than I’ll be pretty excited. I think this was billed as a crime-comedy film but it kind of doesn’t sit in either of those genres. It’s certainly one of the more unique set ups. With great action, peppered laughs, and twists that feel more like natural escalations and consequences this film brought together a lot of great actors to make a really interesting movie. I feel like this movie wanted to get at the heart of culture today and while it doesn’t burrow all the way deep down, it’s certainly on to something.

Final Verdict: Shockingly good. If you don’t mind a little over the top violence and you have the stomach for sitting with some uncomfortable feelings then this is a film you shouldn’t miss. Breezes by at only 96 minutes but it’ll sit in your head for a while after.

Warm Bodies (2013)

I have a soft spot for Nicholas Hoult. He’s a great actor who does great work in movies that are often not really quite up to snuff. This is one of those. His portrayal in this movie is absolutely top notch, both his body work and his voice over flow together seamlessly to sell this. Unfortunately for me, the movie goes a little too hard on the pedal and loses its momentum a few too many times. I wonder if the original script was a short (20-25 minutes) that had to be extended out to a full 90 minute movie because that’s absolutely what it feels like. Everything in this movie can be condensed down which left me a little glazed over at some points. When it hits just right though, it’s a wonderful blend of comedy, romance, and a little action and horror too.

Final Verdict: I don’t think I’ll be rewatching this movie as it doesn’t really have much to offer beyond the standard fare but if you haven’t watched it and need something light this is a great movie. This would also be really good for a big gathering because it has a little something for everyone and its simple premise means if you miss a few minutes you won’t be lost at all.

Short Cuts (1993)

This movie completely blind sided me. There’s a LOT going on in the film. When this was recommended to me it came with the suggestion that it was “a masterclass in weaving together narratives and themes” and that’s absolutely true. The film follows several clusters of people on a given day (well over a few days but that sounds inelegant). What brings them together, what drives them apart. The movie is as much about those things as it is about the disconnections and the missed connections too. I expected this to be a three hour over bloated mess after watching Avengers: End Game (which doesn’t manage to pull that trick off) but instead its one of the most cohesive, interesting and strangely moving movies I’ve watched in a while. The movie is also tragically 1990. If you wanted to see how life has changed drastically over the past 30 years this is a pretty good piece to highlight that. The absence of the internet, cellphones, and that increasing ever pervasive immediacy we live in today are felt deeply in this movie by me, from the future. While its a movie and it only covers slivers of life from that time, it felt viscerally, tangibly like a entirely different time in a way most movies looking back at the 90’s now seem to miss.

Final Verdict: I don’t know how much the average audience member is going to get out of this film. I found myself more invested in some of the stories more than others and it’s uneven in a way that evens out only at the very end but that’s a big ask for a three hour movie. If you have trouble getting through a TV show without picking up your phone, I would take a pass on this. If you’re working on building your focus, this deserves your attention.

Ant Man and the Wasp (2018)

This movie is a thorn in my side. I liked this movie. It’s fun, it’s breezy, it actually made me laugh more than once and its directed in a way that actually makes visual sense (looking at you, Ant Man)! On the other hand this could have been a better movie. The movie spends a lot of time setting up themes and plot points only to never pay them off. The ending feels cheap and the themes I think they were aiming at get completely muddled by this. I also thought the movie ended at one point but then it kept going for 20 minutes because they needed to set up all the pieces for End Game and that’s…a shame.

Unrelated I have such a soft spot for good dads in media and Scott Lang is a very good dad and it warms my cold, black heart.

Final Verdict: I spent two weeks working out all the things I didn’t like about this film which is two weeks more than I spent thinking about the first Ant Man movie so I have to admit that this movie is much better than that. You could do worse with a popcorn flick and I did laugh out loud several times but if you love movies you might want to steer clear for your own sake.

Last Year at Marienbad (1961)

This is a French drama from the new wave period of cinema and gosh is this an interesting piece of work. Stunning, mysterious, haunting, and difficult this isn’t a piece for everyone but as a person who loves ambiguous works this was basically spot on for me. This work transcends through time, space, and human memory to form something new and interesting. At once familiar but also strange. I’m not sure how many people will fall in love with this film they way I did but it’s beautifully shot and edited in what ends up being a perfect setting.

Final Verdict: This is a really difficult thing to recommend to someone. It’s exceptionally a piece of its time. Art house beyond and before art house. While it’s a short movie, for the wrong person this would likely feel as though it drones on and on. Shots sweep through the buildings, echos of dialogue repeat, scenes overlap and fade into each other with little help from the editing to suss out all of the pieces. I found myself revisiting the images in my mind for a long time after the film but I couldn’t say this is something for everyone. If you liked Jacob’s Ladder, this might be the movie for you. I would say don’t watch this if you thought Inception was really clever because Inception is very interested in giving you the pieces to solve the puzzle – this movie, on the other hand, could care less about what you think happened.

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (2013)

Short and sweet: this film is bad and it should feel bad. The costuming is probably the best part of it and its honestly very middling. I thought it would be funny bad but instead it’s just kind of mush. The plot is nonsense, everything is telegraphed within an inch of its life, and the dialogue is cringe inducing. The movie is trying to be funny but it’s only funny insofar as it is terrible.

Final Verdict: If you love B-movies you will likely still be disappointed in this movie as its got none of the classic hallmarks of a good B-movie. Absolute sadness. I watched this as a favor to someone and that was a mistake. That person has not been my friend for two years and yet I felt compelled to watch this for them. I’m a better person than this movie deserves.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017)

I’m not actually sure this movie makes any sense if you haven’t read the comic books. I have read the comic books and this movie doesn’t quite make any sense. The movie is trying to mash up several volumes of comics into one movie, it does this by flipping through sets, characters, and plot points at a breakneck speed never giving anything enough time to settle or really reverberate with the audience. This is the absolute peak of CGI nonsense (well until Ready Player One came out I suppose). Nothing is real, nothing has weight. Not feelings, not actors, and certainly not the set. I got the feeling everyone was standing in an empty room acting at ping pong balls with no idea what was going to be filled in around them. The plot is garbled, the ending is nonsense, and even Clive Owen is phoning it in. Totally tragic because there are slivers of interesting things in here, if only we had enough time to explore them.

Also the two main characters have zero chemistry with each other and honestly look like they’re reading their lines from a teleprompter half the movie which is super odd since the movie is VERY FOCUSED on how amazing and interesting everything is around them. It’s a frustrating disconnect on top of a lot of other messy elements.

Final Verdict: This is the movie Besson always wanted to make and it’s too obvious to me that it would have been served as a series of movies instead of a stand alone (and it could have used a lot more money also, I kept thinking the movie was from 2013 based on the visual tricks they used to save money). A lack of strong themes, a lack of decent editing, and a lack of focus keep this from being a good movie. Frustrating from beginning to end as you can see where some of the pieces should have clicked together. Watch Rihanna’s dance sequence and then watch Fifth Element again instead. And read the comics!

Ocean’s Eight (2018)

This movie is lazy. It’s not even that the plot and framing are so much weaker than any of the Steven Soderbergh Ocean’s movies (though that’s true too) but it’s all the little things that don’t quite work. The twist, the lack of recognizable women actresses, the absolute low bar dialogue, and the crowning jewel of it all: boring camerawork. Everything about this movie is in opposition to the series but not in a subverting way, just in a “we didn’t make a good movie” way. The lack of notable actresses is especially cutting in a series built on pushing personalities. In a world after The Expendables I don’t feel like sending in Sarah Paulson and Awkwafina really cuts it (not to dunk on them but neither of them have much experience before this and neither of them really does a whole lot for this movie). There’s not a lack of women in Hollywood who could have shown up in this movie, it’s just that they didn’t. That absence is so palpable on top of a thread bare plot turning the movie slow and plodding when it should be a fast paced heist movie. Cate Blanchett is the actual only thing I really loved about this movie, not her character, just her.

Final Verdict: I’m not a big fan of the Ocean franchise anyway but this one scores particularly low marks across the board. Skip this and watch the original Ocean’s 11 instead.

Sorry to Bother You (2018)

It’s best if you go into this movie blind. I really loved this movie, it was my favorite movie of 2018. I love the sound direction, the editing, the acting, the themes. If I had to compare this movie to anything I would compare it to Brazil which is one of my all time favorite movies.

Final Verdict: If you haven’t, please go watch this movie. It received a limited release and very little attention but it’s absolutely fantastic. It’ll probably be a little too “off the wall” for some people and it definitely edges into art house at some moments but it’s modern and smart and “of the moment” so do not miss it.

Paddington (2014) and Paddington 2 (2017)

I am reviewing these together not because they’re same movie (they’re surprisingly not which is shocking and wonderful for kids movies) but mostly because I watched them back to back and I don’t feel like writing up my thoughts on both of them as my thoughts between the two are quite similar. As I am not British I didn’t grow up with Paddington, the cultural icon, it was simply one of many books that I had in my library so seeing these wasn’t exactly a warm hug of familiarity and in that way: I still really enjoyed them. These movies are not just downright wholesome, they’re delightful in a way that you really don’t get to experience as an adult. I would probably compare these movies to Amélie or a Wes Anderson film in that nearly every character has their own secrets which delightfully unfold and give us a sense of them as a person and also exchange some value of connection with us. Wonderfully put together both of these movies will delight children and adults for a few generations and absolutely every British actor on Earth is in them and giving 110%. I especially love Peter Capaldi, Hugh Grant, and Nicole Kidman (no spoilers but I have a type) in these movies but gosh, it’s hard to pick favorites. The plots and themes are tight in both these movies and the filmography is just top notch. There’s so much detail and attention paid to these movies that it’s wild to me that I don’t know anyone who has watched them.

Final Verdict: If you have kids, watch these movies. If you feel sad, watch these movies. They might be too mushy for some people but they were just right for me. Like a nice jam sandwich or a cup of tea these movies get right down into you and fill you with goodness and childlike glee. The second movie is even better than the first as its more complex and builds on the narrative but don’t you dare skip Paddington 1! I’ll know if you do!

That’s all for this installation, see you next week with 10 more movies!

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