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.

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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.)

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.

White Sands (book review)

A new book review from The Movie Snob.

White Sands: Experiences from the Outside World, by Geoff Dyer (2016).  I’d never heard of Dyer until I read a favorable review of this book, but he’s a Brit, now living in Los Angeles, who has won a whole passel of awards for his writing.  I thought this book of essays, mainly about travel, was okay.  It had some good bits, like the story about the trip he and his wife took to Norway in mid-winter in an attempt to see the Northern Lights.  And the story of the time they picked up a hitchhiker in New Mexico about a minute before coming to one of those big warning signs about not picking up hitchhikers because there are prisons nearby.  The final story about a minor stroke he suffered at age 55 was pretty good.  But other parts are less memorable, and there’s a fair amount of hippie-ish mumbo-jumbo that I could not appreciate.  And I was put off by the book’s forward, in which Dyer says that the book is a mixture of fiction and non-fiction without explaining why he added the fiction.  Well, there’s something that sounds like an explanation, but I didn’t get it.