I am introducing the Thirty Second Film Reviews due to I’ve been busy with several commitments as of late.
“Snatched” (R) – Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn’s talent are neglected from start to finish and yet, results in a tolerable yet stale comedy. C
“King Arthur: The Legend of the Sword” (PG-13) – A tedious period drama that delivers the ultimate snooze fest. D-
“Everything, Everything” (PG-13) – Provides the tried and true young adult romance narrative resulting in another “The Fault in Our Stars” (2014) wannabe. C
“Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul” (PG) – Lacks a coherent narrative, consisting of humorless toilet jokes. Do not travel with the Heffley Family. F
“A Quiet Passion” (PG-13) – In an otherwise underwhelming narrative, Cynthia Nixon’s performance as the legendary poet Emily Dickinson prevails. C+
“The Lovers” (R) – Incredible performances and chemistry among Debra Winger and Tracey Letts, but not up to the standard of the prior A24 films. B
“Baywatch” (R) – Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron are adorable eye candy; however, you may not dismiss the predictable buddy narrative. C
“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” (PG-13) – The screenplay is as foolish as the pirate Captain Jack Sparrow himself. Only genuinely entertaining during three brief sequences. D
Based on the novel “Their Finest Hour and a Half” by Lissa Evans, the British film crew – involving Catrin Cole (Gemma Arterton), Tom Buckley (Sam Claflin), Ambrose Hilliard (Bill Nighy), and several others are tasked to produce propaganda films during the 1940.
Lone Scherfig is one of my favorite British film directors – helmed the utterly brilliant “An Education” (2009) and the respectable “One Day” (2011). “Their Finest” is a tad underwhelming, compared to her previous films.
Propelled by charming performances and beautiful production and costume design, the slightly meandering narrative follows the familiar beats – a film about producing a film (ponder the far superior “Birdman”). “Their Finest” admires and respects the motion picture art form.
Despite the underwhelming narrative, “Their Finest” is an elegant period piece, regardless. B-
Based on the same biography of the same name by David Grann, The Lost City of Z tells the story of British Colonel Percy Fawcett and Henry Costin mission into the Amazon to search for a mysterious city, dubbed Z via Fawcett during the 1920's. The expedition ended with the disappearance of both Fawcett and his son.
Charlie Hunnam's performance is mediocre in the lead role of Fawcett. He's supported by Robert Pattinson in a disappointing turn as Fawcett's compatriot. Tom Holland rounds out the cast with a commendable performance as Fawcett's son.
It is difficult to deny James Gray’s “The Lost City of Z” is ambitious in terms of scope. Yet, Fawcett’s adventures depicted onscreen are far from exhilarating. The monotonous expeditions result in an extremely underwhelming film. I viewed the film twice, hoping to find something new with a second screening, but regrettably, the second viewing provided a confirmation of genuine disappointment.
Amazonian adventures are usually a genre full of surprises, however “The Lost City of Z” follows takes the predictable route, resulting in a lukewarm experience. C
Nacho Vigalondo’s “Colossal” is a subtly brilliant science fiction with an unexpected finale.
Alcoholics Gloria (the brilliant Anne Hathaway) and Oscar (the equally remarkable Jason Sudeikis) discover that tragic events occurring in Seoul, Korea, involving agiant monster and robot are connected to their recurring mental collapses.
“Colossal” is simultaneously refreshing, ridiculous, and hilarious. There are several laugh out loud moments, however beneath the hilarity, Colossal doubles as a cautionary tale about the dangers of substance abuse and its effect on friends and family. Flashbacks are used to enrich the relationship of the characters, however, the conclusion is outright insane and anticlimactic, undoing the groundwork of the first two acts.
Innovative science fiction films are few and far between in the current box office climate and “Colossal” presents a wildly entertaining story that shatters most sci-fi cliches. B+
The two gangs, involving Justine (Brie Larson), Vernon (Sharlto Copley), Ord (Armie Hammer), Chris (Cillian Murphy), Stevo (Sam Riley), Bernie (Enzo Cilenti), and a few others reunite in the warehouse to accomplish the gunfight and play a game of survival.
“Free Fire” boasts the recipe of success – the independent film studio A24, Larson, Hammer, and Murphy. Yet, the film never fulfills its hidden potential – certainly a complete blast and outrageously ridiculous; however, the narrative is nothing new and thus, predictable. The underdeveloped character arcs do not allow you to appreciate the characters, regardless when they die. I anticipated something a lot better, considering the studio and the talent involved. Nonetheless, “Free Fire” does not undermine A24’s excellent reputation. B-
I’ve seen and reviewed plenty foreign language films, my lovely readers. Most people are scared, regarding reading the subtitles. I recognize you may be one of them… You may believe they suck your enjoyment out of a movie – actually, they do not.
Maren Ade’s “Toni Erdmann” (Germany) and Paul Verhoeven’s “Elle” (France) are two particular favorite films during the 2016. (Asghar Farhadi’s “The Salesman” / “Forushande” won the Best Foreign Language Film at the 89th Academy Awards.)
The foreign films allow you to explore a different facet of the cinema – witness original and wacky narratives and discover various cultures and customs & unknown filmmakers, actresses, and actors (however, they may be known in their native country). Ultimately, attending foreign films are a rewarding experience on many levels.
Trust me here, attending your first foreign language film may be taunting and tempting – but once you attend several films of this nature, you eventually become acclimated and reading the subtitles is actually no big deal. You just smoothly transition yourself. This is easy for me to proclaim: SUBTITLES ARE NOT THAT BAD. So, let me leave you with this – foreign cinema and the subtitles may be initially outlandish and yet, the reward is positively insurmountable.
Auteur director Terrence Malick is known for using multiple, nonlinear narratives and unconventional film making. His latest film “Song to Song” is experimental to the maximum.
Terrence Malick films are an acquired taste, akin to Woody Allen films. You either like or dislike them – divisive, to say the least.
The love triangles are the center of the narrative that involve Faye (Rooney Mara), Zoey (Berenice Marlohe), BV (Ryan Gosling), Rhonda (Natalie Portman), and Cook (Michael Fassbender), all of which intersect the Austin music scene.
“Song to Song” is confusing, frustrating, and infuriating – all at once. The intertwining, incoherent narratives do not reach their full potential during the conclusion. The multiple narrative technique should be effective, not shallow and confusing. Everything is open ended.
On a positive note, Emmanuel Lubezki’s cinematography is gorgeous and dizzying, making the viewer feel as if they are twirling, alongside the actors onscreen. There are several stunning nature shots, but they don't seem to correspond to the context of the story. This couples with mediocre performances to create a forgettable mess. "Song to Song" departs from the lucid "Tree of Life" (2011) into nonsensical territory, causing me to lose some faith with respect to his upcoming films. D+
Ceyda Torun’s “Kedi” features seven cats – Sari, Duman, Bengü, Aslan Parçasi, Gamsız, Psikopat, and Deniz and their journeys in Istanbul, Turkey. The various people, the Istanbul’s history, and the cats themselves provide the context.
I own two cats – the female gray tabby Abigail and the Black Bombay Jim and indeed, “Kedi” is literally the cat’s meow, in my perspective. Just gazing upon the cats is genuine joy and bliss. Despite the one hour and twenty minute runtime, you may desire to spend additional time with the cats, especially the cat owners.
Yes, “Kedi” is a documentary and yes, it is spoken in Turkish with the English subtitles. But man, those cats melt your heart and you’re in heaven – of course, metaphorically. Furthermore, “Kedi” thoroughly demonstrates the power of the cat companionship and characteristics.
In fantasy, I would’ve adopted another cat following the screening. In reality, I did not. “Kedi” is easily one of my favorite films ever. Be thankful, regarding the cats’ existence. A
The child prodigies are few and in between and hence, “Gifted” cannot determine to be the mainstream film or the independent film – a hybrid in the worst possible way.
The single father Frank Adler (the rather mediocre Chris Evans, he just cannot escape his Captain America alter ego) nurtures the niece and mathematical genius Mary Adler (the delightful McKenna Grace). Meanwhile, Bonnie Stevenson (the brilliant Jenny Slate) recognizes Mary is a gifted child. The biological grandmother Evelyn Adler (the respectable Lindsay Duncan) proceeds with the court custody battle. The neighbor and provisional Godmother Roberta Taylor (the always sublime Octavia Spencer) assist the Adler family if necessary.
“Gifted” delivers the effective manipulative narrative – meaning it really begs the audience to sob. And yes, I sobbed once during the final act. Moreover, it doesn’t help that we’ve seen this tale several times before – extremely predictable that you may be able to foretell the conclusion prior to occurring onscreen. Despite the inconsistent tone, Grace, Slate, and Spencer’s charm saved the day.
Geniuses may be rare and yet, “Gifted” is far from a mastermind. B-
Advance screening courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures. “Gifted” debuts in limited release tomorrow. The scheduled wide release is Wednesday, April 12, 2017.
Based on the manga of the same name by Masamune Shirow and the cult classic film by Mamoru Oshi, the cyber enhanced the Major (the surprisingly fine Scarlett Johansson) is devoted to terminate hackers and criminals. The Major is the human and artificial intelligence hybrid. I will leave you with this much plot due to I may suck the fun out of this live action remake if I tell you the rest – the rest is what allowed me to relish the film.
“Ghost in the Shell” provides the complex yet intriguing concept and narrative allowing you to fully immerse yourself and forget about the whitewashing controversy. I believe some unknown Asian actress should’ve replaced Ms. Johansson; although, she is the box office draw for the American audiences. From the gorgeous production design to the minimalist score, “Ghost in the Shell” is an admirable treat at best and a slight letdown at worst – a genuine example of pure popcorn, escapist entertainment. B
Based on the book of the same name by Marla Frazee, the Boss Baby (voiced by Alec Baldwin) collaborates with the seven year old brother Tim (Miles Bakshi) to terminate the cruel scheme implemented by the Puppy Co. CEO Francis Francis (Steve Buscemi).
“The Boss Baby” is a harmless family flick; however, it includes excessive toilet humor – initially fun yet quickly repetitive and redundant. The narrative is so darn focused on the toilet jokes that the heartfelt message (appreciating the sibling or two) is left in the dust. Nevertheless, the vibrant animation is decent eye candy.
Despite the cute infants, “The Boss Baby” is grueling – more so than the baby herself. C-
I rarely discuss the cinemas I attend, but I would like to advocate a particular film exhibitor during this evening – Landmark Theatres, the leading exhibitor specializing in independent film.
I frequently attend the Oriental Theatre (2230 North Farwell Avenue, Milwaukee’s Upper East Side) and the Downer Theatre (2589 North Downer Avenue, Milwaukee’s Upper East Side) to witness and review the independent films for you, my lovely readers.
Without further ado, I am providing five reasons why the Landmark Theatres is awesome.
Number One: Landmark Theatres showcase foreign language films and documentaries.
The mighty commercial theatre chains, such as Marcus Theatres and AMC Theatres primarily present the mainstream films (e.g. superhero films) and thus, the indie film buffs are required to travel to another theatre chain to attend the shoestring budget, independent films. Landmark Theatres is the chief independent film theatre chain in the Metro Milwaukee area.
Number Two: Landmark Theatres provide unique cinema experiences.
I frequently visit the cinema to witness the mainstream and independent films. Marcus Theatres – mainstream fare and Landmark Theatres – independent fare. Every experience is unique and special, regardless whether it is located at the Oriental or the Downer. However, I cannot determine why it’s so singular because it’s in Milwaukee or it’s the theatres themselves – most likely a combination of both.
Number Three: The Oriental Theatre is GORGEOUS.
The Oriental Theatre is an operating movie palace, the only movie palace within the vicinity of Menomonee Falls and neighboring towns, villages, etc. The theatre is extremely elegant and breathtaking inside, especially the main theatre. You will fall in love with movies if you haven’t already during the visit(s) at this theatre. Ultimately, the Oriental Theatre is a reminder why I fell in love motion pictures in the first place.
Number Four: The showtimes are usually listed during the Monday evenings.
Whereas the Marcus Theatres list the showtimes during Wednesday, Landmark Theatres usually list the showtimes during Monday evening at the latest. It is convenient and awesome, so you are able to schedule the independent films prior to the mainstream films.
Number Five: The Oriental Theatre manager Crystal sometimes introduces the upcoming films that will play at the Milwaukee Landmark Theatres prior to the films.
This rarely occurs at the fellow cinemas, so this is the additional reason to attend films in Milwaukee. It’s also another reason why I love the Oriental Theatre – besides the fact it is beautiful. While we’re on the topic, “Song to Song” is scheduled to play at the Oriental Theatre and “Personal Shopper” is scheduled to play at the Downer Theatre. Of course, be on the lookout for my reviews.
Thank you to Landmark Theatres for never disappointing me in terms of the film selection and the cinema experiences.
Variety’s Brent Lang reported that the studios are flirting with the notion of offering movies seventeen days after their theatrical release – drastically cutting the ninety day theatrical window. 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros. Pictures are in negotiations to offer the exhibitors a percentage of the digital sales. The consumers would disburse $30 for the rental fee.
Hell yes, we are in the digital age. Therefore, the singular magical cinema experience is in jeopardy. I cannot delve into movies via home video as there are too many distractions; however, the cinema provides little to no distractions – the lights to dim and thus, I am immersed in the film. Let’s just say watching movies at home is just not the same as watching films in the cinema.
There are advantages and disadvantages to the cinema and home video, but the latter format is disrespecting the film exhibitors if the consumers are renting new releases. The ninety day theatrical window is essential because first of all – movies are meant to be seen in a darkened theatre, second of all – films are able to produce the revenue if the box office failures occur, and finally, most Disney movies demand the cinema experience (e.g. the live action “Beauty and the Beast”, now playing in cinemas nationwide).
Some cinemas are better than others in regards to fully preserving the cinema experience. Landmark Theatres is the best, particularly the Oriental Theatre (not so much the Downer Theatre). But regardless, the films need the exhibitors and the exhibitors need the films – despite the ticket prices have drastically risen and the concession prices are utterly insane.
No one yearns to die, but it happens anyway. The circle of life, indeed.
The retired businesswoman Harriet Lauler (the legendary Shirley MacLaine) controls everything. Ms. Lauler hires the local obituary writer Anne Sherman (the underwhelming Amanda Seyfried) to establish a particular legacy and scribe the obituary when the time arrives. You may mostly anticipate Ms. Lauler’s death from the outset to the finish.
Let’s admit “The Last Word” is just outright ridiculous – like, let’s get real here – who would want to write their obituary before their death? Ugh, no one. Sort of depressing. Beyond the regular dose of melancholy. The caveat is Mark Pellington’s film attempts to be inspirational when the subject matter is not. Not even Ms. MacLaine and Ms. Seyfried could rescue the somber narrative.
If anything, “The Last Word” delivers the most bitter and disgusting aftertaste following the screening (by the way, I’m still recovering from it). C-
Director Amma Asante astounded me with “Belle” (2014) and hence, it was safe to conclude the expectations were raised high prior to the screening of her latest film “A United Kingdom”. (The Milwaukee Landmark Cinemas were playing the Oscar nominees, so I apologize for not immediately reviewing this motion picture.)
Based on the biography “Color Bar” by Susan Williams, Prince Seretse Khama (the brilliant David Oyelowo) marries the British white woman Ruth Williams (the understated yet exquisite Rosamund Pike) during the 1940s. However, the couple causes the international dispute.
Despite the utterly delightful performances, “A United Kingdom” provides the safe and conventional biopic. The several scenes attempt to be groundbreaking – but failed every single time. Whereas “Loving” (another interracial marriage tale of Mildred and Richard Loving) delivered urgency, “A United Kingdom” is rather detached. Love is vital, regardless of the circumstances. C+
“Alien” (1979) + “The Martian” (2015) = “Life” (2017), a cheap rip off of two Ridley Scott films.
The scientists Miranda North (Rebecca Ferguson), Katerina Golovkina (Olga Dihovichnaya), Rory Adams (Ryan Reynolds), David Jordan (Jake Gyllenhaal), Hugh Derry (Ariyon Bakare), and Sho Murakami (Hiroyuki Sanada) discover and examine the rapidly evolving life form – Calvin abroad the International Space Station (ISS); however, Calvin endangers the aforementioned crew.
“Life” is the outer space diary of sorts, a tense and terse nonlinear narrative that provides a strange case of déjà vu. Despite the spectacularly sinister Calvin, the crew is given nonexistent character development. Meanwhile, the crew’s mission and purpose is unclear. Calvin’s only intention is just killing every human for its pleasure and therefore, the audience is allegedly to enjoy it in return (spoiler: it’s the complete opposite).
Please return Calvin to Mars. Just witness the real deal – “Alien” – instead of receiving the mildly offensive déjà vu here. C
The German prisoners of war (POWs) – Lieutenant Ebbe Jensen (Mikkel Boe Folsgaard), Sebastian Schumann (Louis Hofmann), Helmut Morbach (Joel Basman), and others are forced to remove the landmines on the beach following the World War Two. Meanwhile, the Danish Sergeant Carl Rasmussen (Roland Moller) gradually appreciates the soldiers’ predicament – risking the lives, shattered limbs, and deceased friends.
Martin Zandvliet’s “Land of Mine” provides the unsung heroic war tale – emotionally distant and difficult to resonate with the characters. If an American filmmaker produced “Land of Mine”, the results would’ve remained the same. The nonexistent poignancy may leave you cold and requesting something more. On the one hand, “Land of Mine” may be incisive to some and on the other hand, underwhelming to others, such as myself. C+
The young boy Courgette (voiced by Gaspard Schlatter) is dispatched to the orphanage iCare via the police officer Raymond (Michel Vuillermoz). Courgette establishes the relationships with Camille (Sixtine Murat), Simon (Paulin Jaccoud), and the fellow abandoned children. Meanwhile, Courgette learns to love and trust.
I was adopted during the young age (specifically, two years old) and hence, I do not recognize the biological parents. “My Life as a Zucchini” is the bittersweet tale – discovering family and friends, reliability, and compassion. Claude Barra’s film is suddenly extraordinary and yes, I’ve been randomly pondering Courgette and Company for the past few days.
Yet, it does not matter whether you attend the subtitled or the dubbed versions (this film critic attended the subtitled version). “My Life as a Zucchini” is the exquisite delight – but not for kids – discusses adult subject matter. B
Based on the novel of the same name by Julian Barnes, Tony Webster (Jim Broadbent) discusses the mysterious letter with the former wife Margaret Webster (Harriet Walter). Mr. Webster reconnects with the former love Veronica Ford (Charlotte Rampling) and acknowledges the past. Meanwhile, the Webster duo comforts the daughter Susie (Michelle Dockery).
“The Sense of an Ending” provides the maudlin cautionary tale – the past remains in the past; however, sometimes haunts you. Whereas Broadbent, Walter, and Dockery are underwhelming, Rampling is extremely underused and brilliant. Ms. Rampling should’ve reversed roles with Ms. Walter.
Nonetheless, Ms. Rampling saved the day, regardless of the British charm. B-
The eighty American Belko Industries employees, including Michael “Mike” Milch (John Gallagher Jr.), Wendell Dukes (John C. McGinley), Barry Norris (Tony Goldwyn), and Leandra (Adria Arjona) are instructed to participate during the kill or be killed game via the unknown voice (deriving from the company’s intercom system).
Despite the rather mediocre performances, “The Belko Experiment” hates to admit the senseless narrative is the extremely modest guilty pleasure. Greg McLean’s film is excessively gory and disgusting. You may desire to vomit during the bloodbath conclusion. “The Belko Experiment” definitely strains your carnage tolerance, regardless. C+
Disney is enchanted with remaking the classic animated movies into the nostalgic live action films. The live action remakes initially provide magical bliss and the allure a.k.a. the Disney touch is steadily disappearing as of late. So much freaking nostalgia – almost too much that it becomes the curse – for better and for worse. The latest reimagining “Beauty and the Beast” almost emerges as the beast. Yet, the adequate charm remains afloat and saves the day.
Based on the 1991 film of the same name by Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise, Belle (the utterly exquisite Emma Watson) and the Beast (the equally brilliant Dan Stevens) fall in love. The Beast is selfish and hence, the Enchantress/Agathe (the underused Hattie Morahan) commences the spell – the Prince is the Beast and the castle servants are antiques, wardrobe, and feather duster. Meanwhile, Gaston (the mediocre Luke Evans) flirts with Belle and consistently fails and LeFou (the understated Josh Gad) is the hilarious sidekick.
Disney understands how to tap into the zeitgeist and produce timeless films, regardless of your age. Despite the familiar and predictable narrative – old as time, “Beauty and the Beast” provides stunning production and costume design and irresistible tunes. “Be Our Guest” and “Tale As Old As Time” are easily the highlights and evoke the most nostalgia. The conclusion may allow you to sob once or twice. It’s so darn bittersweet. Nonetheless, the film’s definite meaning is obvious – do not judge folks based on the appearance and genuine love exists with time (slow, fast, whatever the heart desires).
Despite the evident shortcomings, “Beauty and the Beast” sublimely tugs the heartstrings. Be our guest, indeed. B
I attended “Kong: Skull Island” twice during the opening weekend and unfortunately, I must report that the monster film is meh, in simple terms.
Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson), James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston), and Mason Weaver (Brie Larson) explore the unknown island and confront the King Kong (voiced by Toby Kebbel).
“Godzilla” (2014) pales in comparison to the latest film in Legendary’s MonsterVerse. Despite the awesome cast, “Kong: Skull Island” is tedious – alongside, the subpar performances, action sequences, and visual effects.
The King will continue to live. Meanwhile, Kong deserves the superior film than this tolerable mess. C
Just leave it to the Japanese anime genius – Studio Ghibli to provide the universal stories. Michael Dudok de Wit’s “The Red Turtle” chronicles the man encountering the Red Turtle (eventually becoming the woman) on the deserted island – simple yet complex relationship is established.
“The Red Turtle” utters A LOT without the dialogue. The beautiful, painful, and poetic facial expressions and actions provide several metaphors, especially during the final two minutes that manifests the true meaning of life. Triumphant in terms of the anime and nuance and falls short in terms of the meandering pace. Red symbolizes love and ultimately, “The Red Turtle” is a poignant narrative relating to love and its consequences. B
The 2017 Milwaukee Film Festival commences during Thursday, September 28, 2017 and concludes during Thursday, October 12, 2017.
I will attend A FEW DAYS (particularly the weekends) of the festival. The films to be reviewed are to be determined as Milwaukee Film is currently taking submissions and whatnot. I will be purchasing the membership within a couple weeks and thus, this requires a lot of planning on my end.
More to come...
Seventeen years ago, Hugh Jackman brought to life the Wolverine a.k.a. James “Logan” Howlett a.k.a. X-24. The Wolverine is ready to peace out ten films later – the initial series, the standalone trilogy, and the spinoffs.
Based on the comic books of the same name by Roy Thomas, Len Wein, and John Romita, Logan Howlett (the handsome yet awesome Jackman) is the caregiver to the ailing Professor X (the rather underwhelming Patrick Stewart). Meanwhile, Mr. Howlett discovers the young mutant Laura (the quietly brilliant Dafne Keen) during the 2029.
I cannot declare “Logan” is the steadfast farewell that I personally anticipated. Perhaps the timing was terrible. The moviegoers demand X-Men during difficult times, especially during the Trump Administration. The X-Men are complete badass and cool, regardless of the era. Yet, the notion of Ms. Keen succeeding Mr. Jackman is admirable – too young to own the additional X-Men series yet. Goddamn it.
The presumptuous final Wolverine film follows the typical superhero recipe – nothing is groundbreaking except the R rating. “Logan” is unsuitable, regarding the youngsters – akin to “Deadpool” (2016). The explicit gory violence is only meant to be seen via the mature adult audience – several beheadings and stabbings and that is only touching the surface. I guess we shall expect at least one adult oriented superhero film every year, thanks to “Deadpool” (cheers to ya, Merc with a Mouth)!
Farewell to the beloved X-24. (But, seriously, I would not be surprised to encounter the Wolverine during the upcoming Marvel films.) B
Review Structure Key
Regular reviews ~ Word count varies.
Mini reviews ~ Positives and negatives (+/-) analysis.
Brief reviews ~ One hundred words, more or less.
Thirty Second reviews ~ One sentence review.