From the desk of The Movie Snob.
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (B-). Somehow I missed this 2014 black & white foreign-language vampire flick during its original release, but happily a friend invited me to a special showing last night at the Alamo Drafthouse. (Actually I tried to talk her into seeing Logan instead, but she wasn’t having it. She’s been a big vampire fan ever since New Moon.) It’s a weird movie, but interesting. Our hero is some ordinary guy living in a bleak industrial town called Bad City. His father is a junkie, and a drug dealer takes our hero’s beloved car because dad can’t pay his debts. Then the drug dealer abuses a prostitute who works for him. This draws the ire of our vampire (Sheila Vand, Argo), an ordinary-seeming woman who ghosts around town at night and can sprout fangs in a jiffy. Later she menaces a little boy and takes his skateboard. After that she meets our hero after he has gone to a costume party (as Dracula!), and instead of making a meal out of him she actually seems to start liking him. But you’re never really sure if she’s eventually going to chomp on him or not; her affect is pretty flat. More stuff happens after that, in a slow, moody, artsy kind of way. It held my interest.
(I’m categorizing it as a foreign film because it’s in Farsi, but I have read that it was actually shot in California. The director, Ana Lily Amirpour, is Iranian-American.)
This was my first trip to an Alamo Drafthouse, and it was a pretty interesting experience. We got to our theater pretty early, and before getting to the real previews they showed a bunch of film clips and trailers from cheesy old horror movies back-to-back. It was fine to set the mood, I guess, but it made conversation difficult. I got food, which I seldom do at movie theaters, and got a mediocre Royale Burger with Cheese and some cold fries out of the deal. The seats were comfy, though.
A new review from The Movie Snob.
Kong: Skull Island (C). If my records are correct, this is the 1,600th movie I have ever seen, so I wanted to celebrate the milestone with something big. This incarnation of Kong is plenty big, but overall the movie was disappointing. The year is 1973, and an eccentric guy (John Goodman, 10 Cloverfield Lane) somehow persuades a senator (Richard Jenkins, The Cabin in the Woods) to authorize military assistance for an expedition to an uncharted South Pacific island that looks kind of like a skull. Goodman borrows a tough-as-nails colonel (Samuel L. Jackson, Unbreakable, at his Samuel L. Jacksonest) and a few more good men from the winding-down Vietnam War. There are several other members in the expedition, but only Tom Hiddleston (Thor) and cute Brie Larson (Short Term 12) make any impression, as a British ex-special-ops guy and an anti-war photographer respectively. The assembly of the team and the initial foray into the island are the best parts of the movie; once the monsters started to show up, I lost interest in a hurry. It’s a long two hours. Stay through the interminable end credits for a bonus scene.
The Movie Snob is creeped out—but not in a good way.
Split (F). I had not seen an M. Night Shyamalan movie since Lady in the Water, but it sounded like many critics were hailing this as a return to form, or at least the director’s best work in a long while. And I was curious to see good guy James “Professor Xavier” McAvoy (X-Men: Apocalupse) play the villain. So I decided to give it a try. I found that I agreed with the minority of critics who have criticized this movie as a nasty, icky, exploitative piece of work. McAvoy plays a fellow with multiple-personality disorder. At the beginning of the movie he kidnaps three teenaged girls and locks them up in some sort of industrial-looking subterranean labyrinth. He takes some of their clothes. He ominously warns them that they are going to become “sacred food” for “the beast.” In short, the threat of sexual violence is omnipresent. Making matters worse, child abuse and child sexual abuse are alluded to in some very unpleasant flashbacks. I hope the young co-stars (Anya Taylor-Joy, The Witch; Haley Lu Richardson, The Edge of Seventeen; Jessica Sula, TV’s Recovery Road) find better movies to star in. Much better.
P.S. I always like to make a note when I am the only person in the theater for a movie, and I think that was the case with this one. It was a few days ago, though, so don’t quote me on that.
The Movie Snob pans a new rom-com.
Everybody Loves Somebody (D). Maybe so, but everybody definitely does not love this movie. It reminded me a little bit of Trainwreck, oddly enough, although our heroine is not quite as bad a trainwreck as Amy Schumer was. Karla Souza (From Prada to Nada) stars as Clara, a Los Angeles obstetrician who likes going to bars and picking up one-night stands. Obviously, she has some grievous hurt in her past, and we find out soon enough that she hasn’t gotten over bad-boy Daniel (José María Yazpik, Beverly Hills Chihuahua), who left her broken-hearted eight years earlier. Of course Daniel pops up just as a nice, bland Aussie doctor (Ben O’Toole, Hacksaw Ridge) is starting to show some interest in Clara. As an added gimmick, the movie is bilingual–Clara and her sister think nothing of jaunting off to Baja on a moment’s notice to visit their parents’ stunning seaside villa. The movie didn’t work for me; Clara was too annoying for me to get invested in her problems, and neither of the two guys was particularly compelling. If there were any really funny moments, I don’t remember them. I say give this one a pass.
New from the desk of The Movie Snob.
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.