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.

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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.

Gifted

Movie Man Mike drops by with a review.

Gifted (B-).  Chris Evans is probably best known for his roles as Captain America in the Avengers movies or as Johnny Storm in the Fantastic Four series.  He has gotten some lower-profile roles in other films and, in my view, has proven that he’s more than an action figure actor.  He turned in a solid performance in the film Snowpiercer.  He’s proven himself again in Gifted.

This is a film about a highly intelligent and adorable little girl—Mary Adler (played brilliantly by Mckenna Grace, Independence Day: Resurgence)—who presents something of a challenge to her Uncle Frank.  Uncle Frank just wants Mary to have a normal childhood, which is something his mother deprived Mary’s mother from having.   But Mary’s intellect is far above average, and that quickly comes to the attention of Mary’s teacher, who pushes to have Mary put in a more challenging educational environment.  The push to harness Mary’s intellect creates a conflict that threatens the close bond Mary and Frank have forged.  At times the story seems somewhat contrived, but Mary’s charm, along with the superb dialogue and an unexpected resolution of the conflict, make the film well worth the investment of your time.

The Big Sick

New from The Movie Snob.

The Big Sick  (B).  This is a pleasant and affable little romantic comedy with a couple of twists.  First, it’s apparently based on the star’s real life romancing of his wife.  And second, the main plot point is that the female lead (Zoe Kazan, What If) gets a mysterious illness that puts her into a coma halfway through the movie.  After that, it’s mostly about the fellow, Kumail (Kumail Nanjiani, Life as We Know It) having to deal with the girl’s parents (well-played by Ray Romano, TV’s Everybody Loves Raymond, and Holly Hunter, Thirteen) while their daughter is in potentially mortal danger.  Also, he’s juggling his would-be career as a stand-up comedian and his overbearing Pakistani parents’ attempts to push him into an arranged marriage.  Not everything totally worked for me, but there were enough chuckles, and the leads were likable enough, that I enjoyed it.