Love & Friendship (book review)

A new book review from The Movie Snob.

Love & Friendship: In Which Jane Austen’s Lady Susan Vernon Is Entirely Vindicated, by Whit Stillman (2016).  Director Whit Stillman has written a novelization of his recent movie Love & Friendship, starring Kate Beckinsale and Chloe Sevigny.  (Although I never read it, he did the same for his movie The Last Days of Disco, also starring Beckinsale and Sevigny.)  I can’t say the novel really adds much to the film, but it is an adequate and enjoyable enough retelling of the schemes and machinations of the unscrupulous Lady Susan.  The novel’s narrator is Lady Susan’s nephew, who desperately attempts to make his aunt look like a victim of slander instead of the schemer she so clearly was.  As an added bonus, Jane Austen’s novella Lady Susan is included in the appendix, so you can see the bones that Stillman built his movie and novel out of.  The package is enjoyable enough, but it’s nothing to get too excited about.

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A Deeper Vision (book review)

The Movie Snob submits a book review.

A Deeper Vision: The Catholic Intellectual Tradition in the Twentieth Century, by Robert Royal (Ignatius 2015).  I don’t know exactly what Robert Royal’s background is, but he is amazingly knowledgeable about the Catholic Church and Catholic theology.  This big old chunk of a book (588 pages) proves it.  The first part of the book focuses on the trends and trendsetters in Catholic theology in the twentieth century, with special emphasis on Vatican II and the Church’s gradual embrace of modern techniques of Scripture study.  That’s a lot of ground to cover in 357 pages, but it didn’t feel too superficial to me, and I found the discussion of Vatican II particularly interesting.  The second part of the book is about Catholic writers of the twentieth century, mainly British and French.  Most of the British folks were at least somewhat familiar to me—G.K. Chesterton, Evelyn Waugh, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Graham Greene—but the French fellows were mostly unknown to me.  Anyway, the book is not light reading, but if you have an interest in the topic, I think you will find it an excellent and well-written resource.

Blade Runner 2049

A movie review from The Movie Snob.

Blade Runner 2049  (C).  First, a confession.  Although I know I have seen some scenes from the original Blade Runner, I’m not sure I have ever seen the whole movie from beginning to end.  But I know the gist of it: in a gritty, dystopian future, a cop (Harrison Ford, (The Force Awakens) has to track down and kill some dangerous rogue androids who are trying to pass as humans.  I’ve even read the Philip K. Dick novel on which the movie was loosely based.

In 2049, thirty years after the events of Blade Runner, the future is still gritty and dystopian, and there are still rogue androids (or replicants, as they’re called) needing to be “retired.”  The twist is that our protagonist, android hunter K (Ryan Gosling, La La Land), is a replicant himself–and he knows it.  The opening sequence has him accomplishing an ordinary mission, but further investigation uncovers a mystery that he spends the rest of the movie (a long 2 hours and 44 minutes) unraveling.  The visuals are impressive, the music is deafening, and although I didn’t totally follow the convoluted plot it still mostly held my interest.  I thought Robin Wright (Wonder Woman) was very good as the world-weary police chief that K reports to.  But I thought the most interesting part of the movie concerned K’s “home life,” so to speak.  As a replicant himself, does he have emotions?  It appears he has some emotional response, or tries to, to a holographic digital assistant called Joi (Ana de Armas, War Dogs), but flesh-and-blood human beings don’t seem to interest him.  His connection with Joi called other movies to mind, particularly her, Ex Machina, and even the recent Marjorie Prime.  And it didn’t hurt that Joi herself was stunningly beautiful.  Nevertheless, on the whole, the movie didn’t gel for me.  It’s too long, the final act isn’t great, and I didn’t think the ending made any sense.  And although there are quite a few important female characters, the movie has a misogynistic vibe.  So, there you have it.

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).

Atomic Blonde

A new review from The Movie Snob.

Atomic Blonde  (D).  So I was shooting the breeze with a couple of guys at work, and we were talking about movies.  Expecting no contradiction, I offered the opinion that Wonder Woman‘s Gal Gadot is probably the most beautiful movie star working today.  To my amazement, one of my colleagues demurred.  “Have you seen Atomic Blonde?” he asked.  Recalling that this was a poorly performing spy movie starring the admittedly gorgeous Charlize Theron (Mad Max: Fury Road), I resolved to check it out.

Theron is gorgeous, but the movie is a mess.  During the last few days before the fall of the Berlin Wall, a British super-spy-assassin (Theron) is sent to Berlin to find and recover a list of a bunch of spies from a KGB guy gone rogue.  Her connection there, the local British spy chief, is a squirrelly guy played by James McAvoy (Atonement).  A cute French spy played by Sophia Boutella (Star Trek Beyond) engages in some inappropriate spygames with Theron.  Oh, and the whole thing is told by Theron’s character in flashback, so we’re constantly getting yanked back into a boring room in London where she swaps supposedly hard-boiled dialogue with John Goodman (Kong: Skull Island) and Toby Jones (Morgan).  The highlights are the exquisitely choreographed fight scenes, and I must admit they are better filmed and more entertaining than the incomprehensibly cut gibberish you see in most action movies these days.  But I had problems even with the fight scenes.  I could suspend disbelief long enough to accept that Charlize Theron is such a supernaturally fast and agile fighter that she can defeat thugs two or three times her size simply because they can’t land a punch on her.  But I can’t accept that she can actually absorb full-on body-blows from the same thugs and still keep up the fight.  She may be a ninja, but come on, a supermodel-skinny woman is not going to get up after some of the punches she takes in this movie, no matter how much of a ninja she is.

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!