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The Salesman (B-). This is the new (Oscar©-nominated) movie by Iranian director Asghar Farhadi. I liked his 2011 film A Separation, and I really liked his 2013 film The Past, so I was looking forward to The Salesman quite a bit. Suffice to say, it is my least favorite of his films, but it’s still an interesting look at life in contemporary Iran. Emad and Rana are a happily married couple who unexpectedly find themselves having to move in a hurry when their apartment building threatens to collapse. A friend offers them a place, but it comes with some baggage—the previous tenant was a woman of doubtful virtue, and she has refused to come back and collect most of her stuff. Short of options, Emad and Rana take the place. Then someone—one of the previous tenant’s clients?—enters the apartment and attacks Rana. Everyone agrees that going to the police would be pointless and would only expose Rana to a lot of painful scrutiny. So Emad does his own sleuthing to try to find the culprit. I just didn’t find the story as compelling as Farhadi’s previous films. I may have missed some of Farhadi’s message because I am not familiar with the Arthur Miller play Death of a Salesman, which gives the movie its title and plays a significant role in the story. Anyway, it’s worth seeing, but I encourage you to see The Past instead if your taste for subtitled Iranian films is limited.
From the desk of The Movie Snob.
Lion (B). Based on a true story! In 1987, a little boy in a crowded Calcutta orphanage has the amazing good fortunate to be adopted by a warm, loving Australian couple. Twenty years later, Saroo seems to be doing great–he’s studying for a career, and he has a bunch of good friends and a sweet girlfriend. But there’s a worm in the apple: Saroo is not an orphan, and he knows it. He had a mother, brother, and sister in a remote Indian village, but through a chance misfortune he got locked in a train car that took him to Calcutta—1600km away. He didn’t speak the language spoken there, and he didn’t know his own mother’s name or, apparently, the correct name of their village. So he ended up in the orphanage. But now, all these years later, there’s a little something called Google Earth™ that might hold the key to finding his long-lost family. This is a pretty good movie, but I’m not sure it deserves all the Oscar© hoopla it has gotten. I can buy the best supporting actress nomination for Nicole Kidman (Paddington) as the long-suffering adoptive mom. But I don’t see best picture, or even the best supporting actor nod for Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire) as the grown-up Saroo. Rooney Mara (Side Effects) has virtually nothing to do as the girlfriend. The kid who plays young Saroo is pretty amazing, though.
From the desk of The Movie Snob.
The Edge of Seventeen (B-). This new tale of teen angst stars Hailee Steinfeld (Begin Again) as Nadine, a miserable and thoroughly unpleasant high-school student whose entire wardrobe seems to consist of barely-there skirts and shorts. Nadine doesn’t get along with either her mom or her older brother. To make matters worse, her only friend in the world starts dating said older brother, which only makes Nadine more miserable and, amazingly, even more unpleasant. Really, Nadine is so obnoxious and filled with self-loathing that I found it very hard to empathize with her, She seemed borderline mentally ill. The movie’s bright spot is Nadine’s friendship with her history teacher, Mr. Bruner (Woody Harrelson, Management). Bruner’s dryly sarcastic responses to Nadine’s various crises had the whole theater laughing out loud. Basically, all the scenes involving Bruner are great, and the rest of the movie is so-so. And please note that the R rating for language and sexual content is well deserved.
New from The Movie Snob.
Passengers (B). The critics haven’t been too kind to this new sci-fi flick, but I liked it pretty well. For this particular movie it’s kind of hard to know what would count as spoilers, so first I’ll just say what the movie is about based on the first ten minutes: an awesome starship from Earth is on a 120-year journey to a new world, with 5,000 passengers and a couple hundred crew members all sleeping the voyage away in suspended animation. But a little problem crops up, and a single passenger—a lowly engineer named Jim (Chris Pratt, Jurassic World)—is woken up 90 years too soon. There’s no way he can put himself back into hibernation, and communicating with Earth is impossible, so he faces living the rest of his life completely alone. The movie is about how he deals with that fate.
The rest of this review might contain spoilers if you haven’t seen any previews for this movie.
As the previews show, and as even the movie’s posters give away, Jim doesn’t stay alone. Another passenger, the lovely Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook) also wakes up. How that comes to pass, and how she and Jim get along after she wakes up, are among the most interesting parts of the movie. Michael Sheen (TRON: Legacy) turns up as Arthur, the robotic bartender. The movie’s final act gets rather less interesting as coincidences and unbelievable events pile up. Still, I liked the movie overall. I thought Pratt and Lawrence were very likable, kind of like Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone in La La Land. If you like science fiction, I say give Passengers a try.
Mom Under Cover is back in action!
Tom Hanks embodies Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger in much the way he became Walt Disney. Hanks and Aaron Eckhart (The Dark Knight) as co-pilot Skyles are good partners in this movie. Eastwood does not develop any of the other characters and did not use Laura Linney’s talent–as Sully’s wife, she is seen mostly tearful and on the phone. Anna Gunn (Breaking Bad), as one of the NTSB investigators, is also pretty one dimensional. The movie tells a story we know and still manages to create drama and deliver a hero. Be sure to stay for the credits (surely this goes without saying).
A new review from The Movie Snob.
Hell or High Water (B+). This is the best movie I have seen in a while–a tense little crime drama about a couple of brothers who go on a bank-robbing spree in various desolate west Texas towns. Jeff Bridges (The Big Lebowski) chews the scenery and steals the show as the grizzled old Texas Ranger (a few weeks from retirement, naturally) who is on their trail, but his Hispanic partner Alberto (Gil Birmingham, Twilight) has some memorable lines as well. The bank-robbing brothers are fine too: loose cannon Tanner (Ben Foster, The Messenger) and thoughtful, relatively honorable Toby (Chris Pine, Into the Woods). What are the brothers really after? Will the Rangers catch up with them, and what will happen if they do? It’s rather like Bonnie and Clyde, I suppose, except I liked this movie even better. Screenwriter Taylor Sheridan also wrote last year’s very good Emily Blunt pic Sicario, so I think he is one to watch.
From the desk of The Movie Snob.
Equity (C). They say that behind every great fortune there is a crime, and if it’s not true in the real world it certainly seems to be true in the movies. Equity is a taut drama about high finance and base villainy, or at least it aspires to be. And, for novelty’s sake, it features women in the central roles of: the successful but still driven high financier Naomi (Anna Gunn, TV’s Breaking Bad), her ambitious but underappreciated underling Erin (Sarah Megan Thomas, Backwards), and Samantha, the federal prosecutor who is sniffing around Wall Street for perps to bust (Alysia Reiner, Sideways). I expected the movie to focus on rampant sexism in the financial industry, but I thought it really downplayed that angle, focusing much more on possible insider trading in connection with a big IPO that Naomi and Erin are trying to midwife. Anyhoo, I thought it was a pretty generic movie, although James Purefoy, who was so good as a sleazy Mark Antony in HBO’s Rome, generates a little interest.