The Movie Snob checks in.
Justice League (C). Yep, even the presence of the beauteous Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman) couldn’t save this piece of cinematic bombast from dull mediocrity. As we recall from the last movie, Superman is dead. This makes everybody sad, which somehow summons up yet another cosmic CGI super-villain bent on global domination. Although said villain has the unlikely name of Steppenwolf, this movie is neither Born to be Wild nor a Magic Carpet Ride. Instead it’s mostly about Batman (Ben Affleck, Gone Girl) looking for new super-recruits like Aquaman (Jason Momoa, TV’s Baywatch) and The Flash (Ezra Miller, City Island) to help him and Wonder Woman beat the bad guy. Lois Lane (Amy Adams, Nocturnal Animals) and Martha Kent (Diane Lane, Six Pack) drop in for a few seconds. And the gorgeous ex-Mrs. Johnny Depp, Amber Heard (3 Days to Kill), has maybe a minute of screen time, as some relative of Aquaman I think. Ultimately, of course, there’s a humongous battle that’s about as exciting as watching your little brother play a video game for forty-five minutes. This is a yawner.
The Movie Snob takes a train.
Murder on the Orient Express (2017) (B). Mystery is not really my genre, either for movies or for books, so I went into this new version of the Agatha Christie classic completely cold. (So why did I go see it? Because my favorite pop-culture podcast, The Substandard, recently did an episode about this movie, and I wanted to see it before listening to the podcast.) Given its middling Metacritic score of 52, I didn’t expect great things, and I was pleasantly surprised. Kenneth Branagh (Dunkirk) directs and stars as eccentric Belgian detective Hercule Poirot. After a fun scene establishing Poirot’s Sherlock Holmesian powers of observation and deduction, he boards The Orient Express—a luxury train (the year is 1934) heading northwest from Istanbul. The train is full of colorful characters played by famous actors, including Daisy Ridley (The Force Awakens), Michelle Pfeiffer (Stardust), Penélope Cruz (Volver), and Johnny Depp (The Tourist). Then a passenger is murdered in the middle of the night, and an avalanche halts the train in a remote mountain pass. Can Poirot solve the mystery before the killer strikes again? To me, the whodunnit aspect of the movie is secondary; the fun is watching the peculiar detective interrogate the passengers and sniff out the clues. I enjoyed it.
A new movie review from The Movie Snob.
Lady Bird (B+). Indie actress Greta Gerwig (Mistress America) wrote and directed this indie dramedy about a high-spirited girl’s tumultuous senior year in a Sacramento Catholic school and her rocky relationship with her mother. I enjoyed it, and it moved along with a brisk 94-minute run time. Saoirse Ronan (The Way Back) shines as the title character (she’s named Christine McPherson, but she insists on being called Lady Bird), and we follow the ups and downs of her experience in Drama Club, her crushes, her relationship with her best friend Julie (Beanie Feldstein, Neighbor 2: Sorority Rising), her college aspirations, and most of all her relationship with her mother, a hard-working and long-suffering psychiatric nurse (Laurie Metcalf, TV’s Roseanne). Based on Ms. Gerwig’s IMDB biography, I’d say this movie has a strong autobiographical component. It also has a 94 score over on Metacritic.com, so what are you waiting for?
New from the desk of The Movie Snob.
Thor: Ragnarok (B-). Of the making of comic-book movies, there is no end. But, if you’ve got a couple of hours to kill, you could do worse than seeing the third movie focused on second-tier Marvel hero Thor of Asgard (Chris Hemsworth, Snow White and the Huntsman). The story is the usual fare—a rising supervillain threatens massive destruction unless the heroic guy and his sidekicks can somehow save the day. And the fight scenes, spaceships, and explosions are also the usual dull, video-game-looking affairs.
So what’s to like? In a nutshell, it’s the comedy. I laughed out loud more times during this movie than in any number of straight-up “comedies” I could name. Fanboys may not appreciate the meta-jokes that poke fun at the silliness of the whole enterprise (like an offhanded joke about Loki’s goofy headgear), but I laughed every time. Weaselly Loki (Tom Hiddleston, Kong: Skull Island) is back and always fun to watch. Jeff Goldblum (The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou) is a hoot as the flamboyant impresario of a planet that looks like a giant garbage dump. As the villainous Hela, Cate Blanchett—a two-time Oscar®-winning actress for Blue Jasmine and The Aviator, don’t you know—chews the CGI with a vengeance and sprouts some mighty impressive antlers whenever she gets ready to kill a bunch of people. Plus there are fun cameos to watch for, and some other Avengers put in small or not-so-small appearances. This movie was directed by Taika Waititi, a New Zealander who also directed and starred in the vampire comedy What We Do in the Shadows. This movie was even funnier.
A new review from the pen of The Movie Snob.
The Killing of a Sacred Deer (D). OK, this art-house flick had a couple of things going for it. Number one, it was directed by Yorgos Lanthimos, who directed the surpassing weird 2016 flick The Lobster. And really number one, it stars the luminous Nicole Kidman (Moulin Rouge!). Unfortunately, the movie left me cold. Colin Farrell (who was in The Lobster and recently appeared with Kidman in The Beguiled) plays Steven Murphy, a successful heart surgeon who is married to a successful eye doctor (Kidman) and has a beautiful house and two nice kids. But as in The Lobster, everything is just a shade off; everyone is stiff, and every conversation is stilted. And Steven has a mysterious relationship with an odd sixteen-year-old boy named Martin (Barry Keoghan, Dunkirk), who imposes himself on Steven more and more as time passes. I can say no more without committing spoilers, but suffice to say there are elements of suspense, horror, and black humor that get ratcheted up the deeper into the movie we go. The performances are good (accepting that the director wanted his actors to act like strange, semi-anesthetized human beings), and none other than good old Alicia Silverstone (Clueless) pops up as Martin’s mom. But at two hours the weirdness went on a little too long for my taste, and I didn’t think the ending was great.
A new book review from The Movie Snob.
Love & Friendship: In Which Jane Austen’s Lady Susan Vernon Is Entirely Vindicated, by Whit Stillman (2016). Director Whit Stillman has written a novelization of his recent movie Love & Friendship, starring Kate Beckinsale and Chloe Sevigny. (Although I never read it, he did the same for his movie The Last Days of Disco, also starring Beckinsale and Sevigny.) I can’t say the novel really adds much to the film, but it is an adequate and enjoyable enough retelling of the schemes and machinations of the unscrupulous Lady Susan. The novel’s narrator is Lady Susan’s nephew, who desperately attempts to make his aunt look like a victim of slander instead of the schemer she so clearly was. As an added bonus, Jane Austen’s novella Lady Susan is included in the appendix, so you can see the bones that Stillman built his movie and novel out of. The package is enjoyable enough, but it’s nothing to get too excited about.