California Typewriter

A new movie review from The Movie Snob.

California Typewriter  (C).  This new documentary about typewriters and the people (mostly men) who love them is strangely uncompelling.  We learn a little about the invention of the first practical typewriter in Wisconsin in the decade or so after the Civil War.  We have some monologues by some people who still use and love typewriters, such as Tom Hanks (You’ve Got Mail), John Mayer, and David McCullough.  We meet a collector of old typewriters who is still trying to get hands on one of the very first run of typewriters produced in Wisconsin back in the day.  We meet the folks who own and run one of the last typewriter repair stores (called California Typewriter).  And we meet a guy who disassembles old typewriters and makes sculptures with them.  One of the first Christmas presents I can remember wanting as a kid was a typewriter, and yet this documentary still didn’t do much for me.  Maybe the four other people in the movie theater with me liked it more than I did.

Advertisements

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 Little Paris Bookshop (book review)

A book review from The Movie Snob.

The Little Paris Bookshop, by Nina George (2015).  I saw a glowing review of this novel, so I picked it up.  Although it was apparently a runaway bestseller in Europe a couple of years ago, and then it was a bestseller in the good old U.S. of A., I thoroughly disliked it.  It’s about a Paris bookseller named Jean Perdu.  He’s 50ish, and he has been nursing a broken heart for 20 years because the woman he loved suddenly left him without so much as a good-bye.  But now things are happening that may finally break Perdu out of his long grief.  How to summarize the things I did not like about this book?  The characters are unbelievable and behave unbelievably.  Coincidences pile up to make things happen right.  The pages drip with neo-hippie philosophizing and cloying descriptions of food and landscapes.  And the more I learned about Perdu’s mystery lover, the more I loathed her.  I kept hoping the book would get better, but it never did.  I urge you to give this one a pass.

War for the Planet of the Apes

New review from The Movie Snob.

War for the Planet of the Apes  (B).  And so the new Apes trilogy comes to an end.  (Spoilers of the first two films follow.)

My favorite was the first one, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, in which we see how a medical experiment gone wrong makes apes superintelligent and kills most of humanity.  The middle installment, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, was a solid if grim movie in which the apes and the surviving humans try to co-exist, with middling-at-best results.

The finale turns the grimness up to 11 as a human military band led by the Colonel (Woody Harrelson, The Edge of Seventeen) seems to be intent on wiping out the apes.  Ape leader Caesar (Andy Serkis, Inkheart) decides to send most of his “people” on a quest for a safe haven while he and few trusted lieutenants set out to find and distract the Colonel.  Along the way they pick up a sweet mute human girl, whom they dub Nova (Amiah Miller, Lights Out), and then another talking ape, a not entirely sane chimpanzee who calls himself “Bad Ape” because that’s what his human captors called him before the plague.  As voiced by Steve Zahn (Sunshine Cleaning), Bad Ape provides some much-needed comic relief, because this War is dark dark dark.  But it’s well-made, on the whole.  (I did roll my eyes a little in the middle part when the Colonel momentarily turns into a James Bond villain and gives Caesar a massive lecture/monologue to explain why he’s doing what he’s doing and what’s going to happen for the rest of the movie.)

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.