Star Trek: Voyager (season 2)

A TV review from The Movie Snob.

Voyager: Season Two  (C).  The Borg Queen and I watched every episode of season two in order.  (I joined her in her quest to watch the whole series partway through season one, so I didn’t review it.)  By way of background, I was big Star Trek fan in my younger days—saw every episode of the original series (most of them many times) and pretty much every episode of The Next Generation, but aside from the movies I pretty much dropped out after TNG.  So far, Voyager is a decent enough entertainment.  The premise is that some advanced alien technology has catapulted an advanced Starfleet ship named Voyager clear across the galaxy into the “Delta Quadrant,” and at normal speeds it will take Captain Kathryn Janeway (Kate Mulgrew, TVs Orange Is the New Black) and her intrepid crew 70 years to get back home to Federation space.  Moreover, the Delta Quadrant is a fairly lawless place, full of villains like the cliquish, Klingonish Kazon and the ruthless but plague-ridden Vidiians, so it’s tough sledding.  Anyhoo, I dished out Bs, Cs, and Ds to season two’s 26 episodes in roughly equal measure, so there were plenty of average and subpar episodes.  If you just wanted to try the highlights, I’d recommend “Cold Fire” (episode 10), “Prototype” (episode 13), “Death Wish” (episode 18), “Deadlock” (episode 21), “Innocence” (episode 22), “Tuvix” (episode 24), and “Resolutions” (episode 25).  The season ends with a cliffhanger that I found pretty meh.  But if you like Star Trek, you should find season two reasonably tolerable.  The Borg Queen tells me it improves in later seasons, so we’ll see . . . .

Emma. (2020)

A new movie review from The Movie Snob.

Emma.  (B+).  Did we really need another movie of the beloved Jane Austen novel?  I guess the box office will tell.  This is a fine and, I believe, faithful adaptation of the book, so being an ardent disciple of the divine Miss Austen I quite enjoyed it.  Anya Taylor-Joy was an interesting choice for the title role; her large, wide-set eyes give her a somewhat exotic appearance that may have worked better in her other movies like The Witch and Split, but she does a good job on the whole.  In this version, I think Mr. Knightley (Johnny Flynn, Clouds of Sils Maria) at least looks quite a bit younger than he was in the novel (and the familiar 1996 movie version starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Jeremy Northam), and perhaps as a result this Emma–Knightley combination actually generates a little romantic heat.  What else to say?  The music stands out; there’s quite of bit of it, and a lot of it sounds like religious music of the period (or at least some long-past period).  In this version, Emma’s older sister and her family come to Highbury for a visit and make a vivid impression; I don’t remember them from the book or prior movies.  Anyway, if you like Jane Austen, or period pieces, or romantic comedies, I think you should like this movie.

P.S.  Yes, the title of the movie really does have a period at the end, which I noticed on the opening title card.  According to Wikipedia, “The title of the film has a period attached to signify it being a period piece.”

Richard Jewell

From the desk of The Movie Snob.

Richard Jewell  (B).  This is a solid, interesting little movie about a real-life event that I only dimly remember.  A nail-bomb exploded in downtown Atlanta while that city was hosting the 1996 Olympics, killing one person and injuring over 100 (per wikipedia).  According to the movie, the federal criminal investigation turned up no real leads, and the FBI decided to focus on Richard Jewell, the security guard who discovered the bomb before it exploded and seemingly saved lots of lives by alerting law enforcement and helping evacuate the area.  (The actual bomber was identified and apprehended only years later.)  Director Clint Eastwood (Jersey Boys) portrays Jewell (Paul Walter Hauser, I, Tonya) as a real odd duck—hugely overweight, socially inept, living with his mother (Kathy Bates, Midnight in Paris), and yearning to be a real policeman.  Olivia Wilde (Drinking Buddies) is an unscrupulous reporter dying for a scoop after the explosion, and Jon Hamm (Bridesmaids) is the integrity-challenged FBI agent who tips her off that Jewell is a person of interest.  When she breaks the story, Jewell goes from hero to presumed villain in no time flat, and he turns to the only lawyer he knows, a solo practitioner played by Sam Rockwell (The Way Way Back), to help him fight back.  Hauser and Rockwell turn in fine performances, and the movie vividly demonstrates how the combined power of the government and the media can unjustly destroy an ordinary guy’s life and reputation (and really upset his mama).

Little Women (2019)

A new review from The Movie Snob.

Little Women (2019) (A-).  I haven’t seen any of the numerous prior dramatizations of Louisa May Alcott’s beloved novel, and I haven’t read the book itself in decades, so I was a fairly clean slate.  I just remembered it was the story of four sisters (Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy) living with their mother “Marmee” in the North while their father was off with the Union army in the Civil War.  Director and adapter Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird) complicates the narrative by making the “present” some seven years later and having headstrong sister Jo (Saoirse Ronan, Atonement) remember the Civil War-era events in extensive flashbacks.

At first, I didn’t care for the movie very much, but it quickly grew on me.  I think it was mainly the story—the little domestic squabbles, setbacks, and victories—that won me over.  Aside from Ronan, who’s always good, and Meryl Streep (It’s Complicated…) in a small but fun part as the girls’ rich and crusty spinster aunt, I thought the acting was merely adequate.  Emma Watson (This Is the End) didn’t have a lot to do as oldest sister Meg.  Laura Dern (Star Wars Episode VIII) mostly just beams happily at her wonderful daughters.  And I thought Amy, the youngest sister, was miscast.  I vaguely remember her as a flighty, spoiled, kid-sister type in the novel, but Florence Pugh (Midsommar) is a sturdy, husky-voiced gal who seemed more mature than all three of her “older” sisters.  I expect she’ll be a better fit for her part in the upcoming Marvel movie Black Widow.

Bombshell

A new movie review from The Movie Snob.

Bombshell.  (B)  I had time to squeeze one last movie in before the end of 2019, so of course I opted for the one starring the flawless Nicole Kidman (Aquaman).  It’s based on the sexual-harassment scandal that engulfed the Fox News organization in 2016 and ultimately took down CEO Roger Ailes (played here by John Lithgow, Confessions of a Shopaholic).  I’ve never watched Fox News and paid no attention to the scandal, so it was all rather new to me.  The incomparable Kidman plays Gretchen Carlson, a Fox personality who first got demoted, then got fired, and then sued Ailes individually for sexual harassment.  Charlize Theron (Atomic Blonde) plays Megyn Kelly, an even higher-profile Fox newswoman who has to decide whether to protect her very successful career or come forward to corroborate Carlson’s story with her own account of Ailes’s misconduct some ten years earlier.  And then there’s Margot Robbie (Whiskey Tango Foxtrot), who plays a wide-eyed up-and-comer who’s currently being victimized by Ailes.  Although the movie was interesting, I think it suffers from the fact that Robbie’s character is fictional (a composite of several women, I’ve read).  The main suspense of the action is whether any women who work at Fox will come forward to substantiate Carlson’s claims, and the movie sort of sets you up to expect that Robbie’s character will be the one to come forward because, unlike Kelly, she’s suffering from Ailes’s misconduct right now.  But then she doesn’t, presumably because she’s not a real person and the movie wanted to stick closer to the facts.  Anyway, I thought it was worth seeing, and I note that Theron and Robbie have picked up Golden Globe nominations for their performances (though not Kidman, criminally).

Also, I was again impressed by the Alamo Drafthouse’s pre-show entertainment, which included clips from Kidman’s first film, BMX Bandits, and a comic bit from Funnyordie.com in which Theron pretends to be practicing an Academy Award acceptance speech in her bathroom mirror.

Ad Astra

The Movie Snob sees a current release!

Ad Astra  (C).  This movie has done very well with other critics—currently scoring 80 out of 100 on metacritic.com—but I was underwhelmed.  It’s a sci-fi flick set in the near future.  Brad Pitt (Burn After Reading) stars as Roy McBride, an astronaut so unflappably cool he makes Neil Armstrong look like a bowl of quivering jello.  Strange, deadly energy pulses from Neptune start threatening life on Earth (and on the moon and Mars, which have been colonized), and it seems that Roy’s father Clifford (Tommy Lee Jones, The Homesman), who disappeared on a scientific mission to Neptune years before, may have something to do with it.  Before you can say “2001,” Roy is blasting off from Earth on a mission to contact dear, old dad and, with luck, save the world(s).  Lots of critics have compared Ad Astra to Apocalypse Now, which is fair, but to me the more obvious comparison is the 2007 space thriller Sunshine.  Anyhoo, I found the movie visually appealing but much lacking in the story and character departments.  Roy is so locked down he is hard to empathize with.  Donald Sutherland (Forsaken) pops up in a small role, and Liv Tyler (That Thing You Do!) has the tiny and thankless task of flashing on the screen a few times as Roy’s estranged wife.

Cool Hand Luke

The Movie Snob takes in another classic.

Cool Hand Luke (B).  I think it’s hard to rate a movie that is well-made and interesting but also bleak and depressing.  That’s how I found Cool Hand Luke, the 1967 film starring Paul Newman (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) and co-starring George Kennedy (The Naked Gun) in an Oscar-winning supporting performance.  Newman plays the title character, a decorated war veteran who lands himself on a prison road gang in the deep South after drunkenly vandalizing a bunch of parking meters.  Luke’s blasé attitude and ability to absorb punishment make him an object of suspicion among the prison guards but admiration among his fellow prisoners, who are led by a loud-mouthed fellow called Dragline (Kennedy).  In Luke’s shoes, I’d do my best to keep my head down and survive my two-year sentence, but after his ailing mother dies he starts the shenanigans that will get him in increasing amounts of trouble with the sadistic Captain (who has the famous line “What we have here is failure to communicate”) and his goons.  What’s Luke’s deal?  He’s plainly made out to be a Christ figure, and the movie kind of plays like a drawn-out Garden of Gethsemane sequence.  But what’s his message?  Love thy neighbor doesn’t seem to fit.  Resist authority?  What about rendering unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s?  Even if Luke’s punishment was excessive, he did vandalize public property, after all.  And why is he so rebellious?  He alludes to having grown up without a father, and maybe his wartime experience affected him somehow, but I still didn’t really get his motivation.  I guess some people are just ornery by nature.

Watch for Dennis Hopper (Easy Rider), Harry Dean Stanton (Escape from New York), and Wayne Rogers (TV’s M*A*S*H) in small parts as fellow prisoners.  Apparently Joe Don Baker (Mitchell) was in there too, but I didn’t spot him.

Yentl

A movie review from The Movie Snob.

Yentl (C).  Hm, seems to me that the Magnolia Theater is pushing the limits of what counts as a “classic” in its Tuesday night classic-movie series.  Nevertheless, onward!  This was my first time see this 1983 musical starring (and directed by) Barbra Streisand (Funny Girl).  What can I say?  If you want an extra-hearty helping of Ms. Streisand, this is the movie for you.  The movie is set in “Eastern Europe” in 1904 (I think that’s what the caption said), and Streisand plays Yentl, a young Jewish woman who scoffs at marriage and wants only to be allowed to study Torah.  Alas!  Such study is reserved for men!  But that’s little obstacle for plucky Yentl, who skedaddles from her small town as soon as her dear old dad dies, disguises herself as a man, and joins the yeshiva in the next town over.  She soon falls for her passionate study partner Avigdor (Mandy Patinkin, The Princess Bride), but he’s madly in love with his fiancée Hadass (Amy Irving, Traffic).  Oh, and there’s the little detail that he thinks Yentl is a man (although he does seems to get kind of handsy in after-school horseplay with his younger study partner).  As the melodrama builds, Yentl pushes her cross-dressing scheme surprisingly far.  Anyhoo, the movie was okay, but I didn’t think much of the songs, and I couldn’t quite suspend disbelief at the idea that Streisand (then 40ish) could pass for a Jewish man too young to grow a beard.

Lolita (1962)

The Movie Snob takes in another classic(?)

Lolita  (B).  This past Tuesday evening I took in Stanley Kubrick’s Lolita at the Magnolia Theater.  I’ve never read the book, so I didn’t quite know what to expect, but of course I knew the gist of the story, so I was prepared for a squirm-inducing experience.  A snooty, middle-aged British academic named Humbert Humbert (James Mason, A Star Is Born) moves to a small American town for a summer, and he immediately falls into a lusty obsession with his landlady’s under-aged daughter, who is named Dolores but nicknamed Lolita (Sue Lyon, The Night of the Iguana).  I read on the internet that she’s 12 in the book, but Lyon was 15 when the movie was filmed and looked older to me.  Skeezy things ensue, and Humbert and Lolita wind up traveling across country together.  Shelley Winters (The Diary of Anne Frank) is memorable as Lolita’s pathetic, desperate, and widowed mother.  Peter Sellers (Dr. Strangelove) turns in a scene-stealing performance as a bizarre character named Clare Quilty.  I hardly know what grade to give this odd movie about an untouchable subject, but I will say I was never bored and didn’t squirm all that often.

Easy Rider

The Movie Snob takes in another classic(?)

Easy Rider  (D).  I saw this one courtesy of Fathom Events’ classic film series.  I went in knowing virtually nothing about it except that (1) it stars Dennis Hopper (Giant) and Peter Fonda (Ulee’s Gold) and (2) it’s some kind of “hippie movie.”  Boy, is it!  In a quick opening, we see Billy (Hopper) and Captain America (Fonda) make a killing in a cocaine deal in what is apparently Los Angeles.  After that, they saddle up their motorcycles and hit the open road for New Orleans, where they hope to be in time for Mardi Gras.  On their quest, Billy is twitchy and paranoid, while Captain America is laid back and philosophical.  They visit a commune that seems destined for starvation.  They smoke a lot of marijuana.  Most memorably, they are joined for part of their journey by a small-town alcoholic attorney played by Jack Nicholson (The Shining), in what was apparently his break-out role.  The movie gets progressively darker as it goes along, but I won’t spoil the ending despite its being 50 years old this year.  Although it’s a pretty efficient piece of moviemaking–it’s only 95 minutes long–and it got nominated for two Oscars© and several other awards, I couldn’t appreciate it.  I just kept thinking things like Do these guys ever shower?  Or brush their teeth?  What do they smell like after all these days riding motorcycles through and sleeping in the desert?  I was pleased to read critic David Thomson wrap up his review in the book “Have You Seen . . . ?” this way:  “And it is unwatchable–unless you are benefiting from the illegal substances it advocates.”

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

The Movie Snob finally returns to the movies.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid  (B).  Well, I’m trying to get back into the swing of regular moviegoing, so I decided to see if the Magnolia Theater is still running its classic-movie series on Tuesday nights.  Lo, it is, and I caught this 1969 Western this past Tuesday.  I had never seen it before and still don’t quite know what to make of it.  It stars Paul Newman (Cat on a Hot Tin Roof) and Robert Redford (Captain America: The Winter Soldier) as the outlaws of the film’s title, and as best I can tell from extensive Wikipedia research the movie is actually fairly true to history.  It’s the late 1890s, and Butch, the Kid, and their Hole in the Wall gang are making a living robbing banks and trains—until they irritate some big plutocrat and he hires a very dangerous posse to bring them to justice.  So, in the interest of self-preservation, they make some unusual career choices after that.  Although IMDB.com categorizes the film as “Biography, Crime, Drama,” it has a strong comedic element, with Newman providing lots of amusing dialogue, Redford being amusingly laconic, and an oddly jaunty soundtrack playing in the background.  (“Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” won an Oscar.)  And yet, there is quite a bit of shooting and killing, albeit with very little blood visible.  Katharine Ross of The Graduate fame drops in for a while as the Kid’s love interest, but Butch shows more interest in her than the Kid ever does, and really this movie is a bromance between Butch and the Kid from start to finish.

Anyway, the film held my interest, but I still think it’s kind of an odd bird.  It’s #73 on the American Film Institute’s 2007 list of the 100 greatest American movies, so I guess it’s a classic.

Cruel Intentions

New from The Movie Snob.

Cruel Intentions (D).  I wanted to go see a movie, but no current releases were really grabbing me.  I noticed that this flick was in re-release for its 20th anniversary, and I remembered seeing and liking Dangerous Liaisons (on which it was based) many, many years ago, so I gave it a try.  Well, it’s not so great.  Sarah Michelle Gellar (I Know What You Did Last Summer) and Ryan Phillippe (Crash) star as conniving and wildly promiscuous step-siblings who love to seduce and ruin other young people.  None of it is believable in the least, but Gellar and Phillippe’s interactions are somewhat amusing, and it’s also entertaining to watch Gellar try and fail to be a convincing bad girl.  Reese Witherspoon (Just Like Heaven) is okay as a wholesome Midwestern gal that Phillippe sets out to ruin and accidentally falls in love with.  Poor Selma Blair (Hellboy) has a thankless role as a dimwitted naif that Gellar’s character wants Phillippe to ruin.  Not worth the $14+ I paid to see it, that’s for sure.  I usually go to matinees; when did normal movie tickets get so expensive?

Autumn Sonata

A DVD review from The Movie Snob.

Autumn Sonata  (C).  I have a shelf full of classics by the Criterion Collection, and it is high time I got more use out of them.  So I pulled down this one, which is now the first Ingmar Bergman movie I have ever seen.  It was a good choice for a cold, grey January morning.  Autumn Sonata is a claustrophobic little family drama centering on the painful relationship between a woman and her grown daughter.  Ingrid Bergman (Gaslight), appearing in her last theatrical release, plays the mother, Charlotte.  She’s a world-class concert pianist, and it doesn’t take us long to figure out that her art always took precedence over her husband, her daughters, and pretty much everything else.  Liv Ullman (Lost Horizon) plays her daughter, Eva, who is married to a minister in a small rural town.  Charlotte and Eva haven’t seen each other in seven years, and when Charlotte accepts Eva’s invitation to come visit it doesn’t take too long before the two are hurting each other all over again.  It’s a very talky movie, with some long monologues and lots of extreme close-ups.  I didn’t love it, but it was worth seeing.  The Criterion Collection version I own is a two-DVD set that include a three-and-a-half-hour “making of” documentary on disc two.  I’m not sure I’m ever going to get around to watching all the bonus content….

The Greatest Showman

A new review from The Movie Snob.

The Greatest Showman  (B).  This musical has done only so-so with the critics (Metacritic.com score 45/100 last time I checked), but I must say that I was entertained.  The versatile and (to me) eminently likable Hugh Jackman (Logan) stars as P.T. Barnum in a film that is apparently very loosely based on the real Barnum’s life.  It is exceptionally sentimental, setting up all sorts of underdogs for us to root for—the impoverished child Barnum in love with the daughter of a rich meanie, the slightly less impoverished adult Barnum hatching his first scheme to entertain the masses, the gaggle of differently abled people (unkindly called “freaks” by some characters) Barnum recruits for his show, and even an inter-racial potential couple.  There are lots of songs, and I must say they mostly sounded kind of the same to me.  And the big song-and-dance numbers featuring Barnum’s performers resemble the big song-and-dance numbers you might see on “Dancing with the Stars,” and the lights and noise pretty well bludgeon you into submission.  Michelle Williams (Oz the Great and Powerful) isn’t given much to do as Barnum’s wife, but Zac Efron (Neighbors) and the formerly unknown to me Zendaya (Spider-Man: Homecoming) have nice supporting roles and a nice musical number together.  If you don’t mind a little sap and a little schmaltz, I say give The Greatest Showman a chance.

Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri

New from the desk of The Movie Snob.

Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri (B).  This is a tense, Coen-esque drama/black comedy from Martin McDonagh, who also wrote and directed Seven Psychopaths and In Bruges.  Frances McDormand (Fargo) stars as Mildred Hayes, a small-town divorcee who is consumed with grief over the unsolved rape and murder of her teenaged daughter Angela several months earlier.  Frustrated with local law enforcement, she rents three billboards just outside of town and posts an inflammatory message aimed at police chief Willoughby (Woody Harrelson, War for the Planet of the Apes).  Willoughby is offended but understanding; his violent, racist underling Dixon (Sam Rockwell, Laggies), on the other hand, is infuriated and liable to lash out in any available direction.  The ripples spread through the small town of Ebbing as Mildred persists in keeping the billboards up, and secrets are gradually revealed.  Great performances from the three main actors, and nice supporting work from some others as well, including Peter Dinklage (The Station Agent), Abbie Cornish (Limitless), and Lucas Hedges (Moonrise Kingdom).  But a couple of noticeable flaws (such as Willoughby’s weird use of extreme profanity not just around but at his two adorable little girls) keep this movie out of the top tier, in my opinion.  Still, worth checking out.  Rated R for violence, language throughout, and some sexual references.

Lady Bird

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?

The Killing of a Sacred Deer

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.

Brad’s Status

New from the desk of The Movie Snob.

Brad’s Status  (B-).  Hm, Ben Stiller plays a guy facing a midlife crisis.  Didn’t he just do this a few years ago in While We’re Young?  Well, he’s at it again in this new dramedy, with fair to middling results.  Here it’s not just middle age that’s getting to Brad Sloan (Stiller), but also Facebook.  Brad, you see, has a perfectly decent middle-class life in Sacramento with a cute, loving wife (Jenna Fischer, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story) and a musically talented teenage son (Austin Abrams, Paper Towns).  But his best friends from college (played by guys like Luke Wilson, The Skeleton Twins, and Michael Sheen, Passengers) are all (according to Facebook) wildly successful in various ways, and some 25 years after college they’re starting to leave Brad out of their get-togethers.  This eats away at Brad something fierce, and we hear his neurotic thoughts in frequent voiceovers.  And his unhappy thoughts provoke some awkward and embarrassing behavior when he and his son go tour some colleges in the northeast.  I didn’t think it was bad, and I particularly enjoyed a scene in which a perceptive Harvard student calls Brad out on his very First World problems.  Worth a look if Blade Runner 2049 is sold out.

Columbus

From the desk of The Movie Snob.

Columbus  (C).  Here’s an artsy little film for you.  It’s about a couple of lost souls whose paths cross in the little town of Columbus, Indiana.  (I assumed it was Columbus, Ohio the whole movie, but what do I know?)  One is a middle-aged Korean guy named Jin (John Cho, Star Trek Beyond), who is there only because his famous-professor father happened to be in Columbus when he had some kind of severe health crisis.  Now he’s lingering in a coma in the local hospital, and Jin is kind of stuck.  The other is a Columbus native, a recent high-school grad named Casey (Haley Lu Richardson, The Last Survivors), who is stuck there because her mom is a recovered meth addict and Casey’s afraid she’ll relapse if she goes off the college.  Having met over a cigarette, and having a lot of free time, they hang out together and have intimate but awkward conversation about things—like Columbus’s renowned set of modernist buildings designed by famous architects I had never heard of.  The set-up is kind of like Lost in Translation, now that I think about it—older guy, younger woman, thrown together for a while by fate.  Anyhoo, the movie has gotten good reviews, but I’ll confess I was mainly interested in seeing if Richardson, a fresh new face I noticed in small roles in Edge of Seventeen and Split, has any acting chops.  She and Cho were both good, but the movie is v-e-r-y slow and artsy, and it did start to feel a little long after a while.  Parker Posey (Waiting for Guffman) pops up for a couple of scenes as a former student of Jin’s father (and Jin’s former crush).

Wind River

A new movie review by The Movie Snob.

Wind River  (B-).  Writer–director Taylor Sheridan wrote two recent movies I liked quite a bit (Hell or High Water and Sicario), so I had fairly high hopes for this one.  I didn’t like it as well as those two movies, but it’s not bad if you like crime stories (and have a strong stomach for pretty graphic violence).  Jeremy Renner (Arrival) plays Cory Lambert, a federal game & fish commission guy out in rural Wyoming.  He hunts wolves and mountain lions when they get out of hand, but then one day he discovers the body of a young Native American woman out in the snow.  This really hits Cory hard because his own teenage daughter died under mysterious circumstances some years before.  He teams up with Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen, Captain America: Civil War), the lone FBI agent sent out to work on the case.  They get into some tight spots.  There is an intense flashback that shows the crime they’re investigating.  The movie is rated R for “strong violence, a rape, disturbing images, and language.”  You’ve been warned!

The Snows of Kilimanjaro

A DVD review from The Movie Snob.

The Snows of Kilimanjaro  (D).  I think this is the first DVD I’ve watched all year, and wow was it a snoozer.  I think I picked it up at a big sale at the Dallas Public Library.  Whatever I paid, it was too much!  Gregory Peck (The Gunfighter, also directed by Snows director Henry King) stars as Harry Street, a successful writer and world traveler who has gotten injured while on safari in Africa with his beautiful wife Helen (Susan Hayward, I Married a Witch).  He gets delirious with infection, and most of the movie is told in flashbacks–long ones about the great love of his life, Cynthia (Ava Gardner, Show Boat), and shorter ones about his dalliance with a rich artist (Hildegard Knef, Decision Before Dawn).  None of it is very engaging, and Harry himself seems like no great prize to me.  There’s lots of stock footage of African wildlife, and the soundtrack was very hard to understand at times.  There are no extras on the DVD, either.  Maybe I would have liked it better if I had ever read the Ernest Hemingway story on which it was based.  Nah.

Marjorie Prime

A new review from The Movie Snob.

Marjorie Prime  (C).  Hmmm, an independent sci-fi drama starring Geena Davis, Tim Robbins, and Jon Hamm?  Now that’s something you don’t see every day.  In fact, you hardly see Geena Davis and Tim Robbins in anything at all, do you?  I’m pretty sure A League of Their Own (1992) was the last movie I saw Davis in.  Anyway, this movie is a close relative of her, the movie in which Siri sounds like Scarlett Johansson and develops artificial intelligence.  In the near future of Marjorie Prime, computer engineers have largely perfected the ability to create a lifelike hologram of your deceased loved one.  Apparently the hologram starts out knowing the basic facts of the original person’s life, and then it learns more and more—and thus becomes more and more realistic—as you talk to it and tell it more things about the dearly departed. When the movie starts, an elderly woman with dementia named Marjorie (Lois Smith, Minority Report) is comforted by a hologram of her beloved husband Walter (Hamm, Baby Driver).  But Marjorie’s daughter (Davis) is not happy about it—envious of the attention Walter gets, perhaps?—and Marjorie’s son-in-law (Robbins, City of Ember) hangs back and observes the proceedings, usually with a strong drink in his hand.  Time goes by; other holograms (or “primes,” as they’re called) come into play.  The concept is an interesting one, but the movie is a little too quiet and slow for my taste.  Rex Reed’s review of this movie starts with this verdict: “Intellectually stimulating yet dramatically stunted.”  That sounds about right to me.

Ingrid Goes West

The Movie Snob sounds off.

Ingrid Goes West  (F).

I rarely give a movie an F unless it actually makes me angry.  This one did.

Producer and star Aubrey Plaza (Safety Not Guaranteed) plays Ingrid, a sad, lonely, and mentally ill young woman.  She’s an internet stalker, and the movie opens with Ingrid behaving badly and ending up in a mental institution.  When she gets out of the institution, she finds a new social-media darling to stalk — Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen, Liberal Arts), a West Coaster who’s always posting stuff about her fabulous life.  So Ingrid takes the small inheritance her recently deceased mother left her and moves to L.A., where she first stalks, then ingratiates herself with, Taylor and her husband Ezra (Wyatt Russell, 22 Jump Street).  Despite Ingrid’s odd behavior, her friendly landlord Dan (O’Shea Jackson Jr., Straight Outta Compton) takes a shine to her.  Because Ingrid is a mentally ill pathological liar, none of this can end well.  Although IMDB lists this movie as both a drama and a comedy, it is not very dramatic and not at all funny.  And my tolerance for movies about mental illness that are anything but tragic is low and getting lower all the time.

*** SPOILER ALERT *** READ NO FURTHER TO AVOID SPOILERS ***

I probably would have given this movie a D, but the ending made me angry.  After Ingrid’s stalking of Taylor has ended in disaster, and she has spent all of her inheritance, she video-records herself confessing to being a weird, lonely loser and then downing a bunch of pills.  Naturally the video “goes viral,” and good-hearted Dan somehow tracks her down and gets her emergency medical attention that saves her life.  (Even though by this point she has nearly gotten him killed in a harebrained scheme to keep her stalking of Taylor from being exposed.)  She wakes up in a hospital room filled with balloons and has a phone filled with uplifting messages from complete strangers.  And she smiles.  End movie.  Isn’t this a strong “triggering” message for sad, lonely, and mentally ill people out there who can’t go more than 5 minutes without checking their smartphones?  Try to commit suicide in front of the whole world and everyone will love you?  I haven’t exhaustively researched this film online, but the few reviews I’ve read don’t mention this at all, so maybe I’m overreacting.  But I thought it sent a terrible message.  And, by the way, it defied belief that Dan would come to her hospital room at the end and be all smiles instead of wanting to strangle her himself.

The Circle

The Borg Queen stops by with a new review.

The Circle  (C-).  When this movie ended, I said to myself, “I thought it was just getting started.” The movie never takes off. It is based on a young woman named Mae (Emma Watson, Noah) getting a job at a big brother version of Facebook that basically records and monitors multiple aspects of a person’s life (and physiology) as well as in society. Tom Hanks (A Hologram for the King) channels his inner Steve Jobs as the leader of the technology and social-media giant, making presentations to his Circlers with a coffee cup in hand showing off his latest technology on a stage. You get the gist that he has some sinister plan, but it was never clear to me what exactly it was, but maybe I just got bored. John Boyega (The Force Awakens) plays Ty, who actually founded the Circle but managed to go “off line” and lurk around the Circle mothership without anyone noticing or even knowing who he is for the most part. Ty befriends Mae rather quickly, but the relationship storyline doesn’t really go anywhere for a long time. It appeared to me to be simply a tool used near end of the movie, and then the movie suddenly ends. Overall I found the movie unrealistic and trying way too hard to be cool and mysterious, relying upon its casting over its storyline. Bill Paxton (Aliens) makes an appearance as Mae’s father. This was apparently his last role before his unexpected death and I’ve read that there is a dedication to him at the end of the credits. This movie is supposedly based on a book. If you like reading, I’d suggest trying the book instead.

Dunkirk

From the desk of The Movie Snob.

Dunkirk  (B+).  Having recently read a newish history of WWII, I definitely wanted to see Christopher Nolan’s movie about the 1940 evacuation of 338,000 Allied troops from the beaches of Dunkirk, France.  It’s a pretty effective ground-and-ocean-eye view (except for a few scenes involving a heroic RAF fighter pilot played by Tom Hardy, Mad Max: Fury Road) of those events.  Much of the movie follows a nameless British soldier who is desperate to escape back to England and is not entirely scrupulous about how to do it.  860 civilian vessels took part in the evacuation, and so we also get to follow one of them, a smallish boat called Moonstone captained by an older gent named Mr. Dawson (Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies).  Things get tense fast when Dawson picks up a lone soldier from a wrecked ship, and the shell-shocked soldier (Cillian Murphy, The Dark Knight) freaks out when he realizes the boat is heading towards Dunkirk instead of England.  Kenneth Branagh (My Week with Marilyn) pops up in a few scenes as a high-ranking British guy stuck on the beach with his army.  I enjoyed it.  For another view, calling it an “astonishing filmmaking achievement and an epic narrative failure,” you can click here.