There was a profound opportunity to tell the story how heroin addicts who barely survived their respective early struggles were faring 20 years later. That’s the story I believe Danny Boyle was trying to tell. In my book, he failed miserably — that rocket sailed sky-high over his head. T2 Trainspotting should by all rights have been a deep and powerful film that stood firmly on its own. Instead, he made a picture utterly pointless without the original.
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I’ve always paired Trainspotting and Pulp Fiction as the two great, seminal, earth-shattering films of the nineties. The movies that were so utterly transformative. Quentin Tarantino never tried to remake or produce a sequel to Pulp Fiction, and I hope he stays true in this regard. Danny Boyle, a vastly inferior filmmaker, didn’t have the same self-restraint.
So it sounds like I’m bashing the heck out of Boyle’s follow-up. But I liked it just enough for a thumbs-up. Why? I love the original so much, and T2, for all its many shortcomings, works well as a vibrant homage to the groundbreaking original. Kind of like when a rich kid goes off to run the business his father built from the ground up, and is able to at least keep it afloat a few more years. Put another way, dumb down “massively entertaining” and see what you get: something not nearly as entertaining, but still not a bad trifle.
Marginally recommended, with a heavy dose of all the standard caveats, plus add: an adoration of Trainspotting, and that you see it on a big screen with big sound. Both trailers included below not by accident. 6/10
Kristen Stewart as a personal shopper, yes. A lackadaisical, blasé medium, no.
I’m not saying Stewart is a bad actress, but in no way shape or form did I buy her as any sort of psychic. And I suppose I am saying it: she was just playing herself in Personal Shopper, down to her unmasked and incongruous tattoos. It wasn’t pretty. Kristen Stewart, I am certain, has zero psychic abilities, and her thinly veiled character didn’t either.
It’s nothing against Stewart, not personally or anything. I liked her in last year’s Café Society and Certain Women. She’s good when she’s playing herself.
Beyond all that, Personal Shopper was hurt by an incompetent filmmaking approach. Not only did I not believe Kristen Stewart, I didn’t buy the vomited ectoplasm. I mean really, if you’re trying to blend reality with the spiritual world take a cue from David Lynch. Or at the very least Alejandro Iñárritu. 4/10
Comparison Notes (all recommended): the Patricia Arquette series Medium was a vastly superior portrayal, and a convincing one, of the everyday working psychic. Everyday, yet not blasé about it. In movies we have: Sleeping Beauty, Drive, Safety Not Guaranteed, Antichrist, Twin Peaks FWWM, Wild at Heart, Vertigo, Belle de Jour
FRAUDULENT TRAILERS ANNOY the heck out of me. And it’s very clear what I mean by a fraudulent trailer: one that includes content which is completely devoid the film. That was one of the problems with the insipid Silver Linings Playbook. In the Life trailer, audio of JFK’s speech about the USA’s moonshot is featured prominently, as if to give a greater context to the film. Why then the speech, and its full implications, go AWOL come movie-time can be explained by only one reason: incompetence.
And so what you’re left with is a scary space octopus version of Alien. Like Alien, the nascent forms of the alien life-form are quite intriguing. Unlike Alien, that’s the best Life gets. Life quickly devolves into a very second-rate monster-chase film.
I did like the sequel-ready ending of Life, but overall there’s too much mindlessness. Having to introduce a new tag “trailer perjury” doesn’t help. 5/10
Comparison Notes (all recommended): The Ruins, Alien, Moon, Passengers, The Mist, Splice
I love good edgy indies foreign and domestic; Raw is not one of them. I wasn’t buying most of it, and there wasn’t enough style or substance to overcome its many issues, for example I never felt like I was watching students at a veterinary school, but maybe some sort of weird cult. More problems:
SPOILER ALERT! SPOILERS ALERT! This girl is a devout vegetarian one moment, and the next, for no good reason, is scarfing meat down with abandon. Vet students are animal haters? And she grew up never seeing her father with his shirt off? These and many other issues toss Raw down to B-movie territory, except there’s not enough fun to elicit that B-movie charm. Forced, inorganic storytelling exacerbates these weaknesses.
Still, there was a certain raw, explosive power to the movie that kept it engaging. But even in this regard, when the director was holding a straight flush she folds.
On top of everything else, Raw just wasn’t as original as it’s been made out to be; see Comparison Notes. Entering the local arthouse, I was told that someone had fainted during a previous showing. Barf bags and warning signs were hastily dispatched. I so wished that Raw lived up to all the hype. 5/10
PS Raw is categorized as a horror film, but it’s a joke as a horror film. Hardly horrifying.
Comparison Notes (all recommended): for infinitely better French ‘fare’ about consumption of human flesh — which they have a knack for, check out the greats Delicatessen and Les Amants Criminels; Teeth, every vampire movie ever (Only Lovers Left Alive looks like a masterpiece by comparison), Antichrist, The Neon Demon
Pursuit – run-in, pursuit – run-in, pursuit – really big run-in, end of movie. This basic, worn out, unengaging and paper-thin plot structure is the bane of many superhero and “action” films, and to some degree explains the disparity between the Tomatometer and my score on a movie like Logan. Almost makes you wonder if all these other critics are so dim as to not recognize the formula, or somehow think it novel.
I liked the feisty girl, and the performances in general were OK. I’m a bit of Hugh Jackman fan — from Les Miz at least. Add in a little fun to get yield 4/10.
Comparison Notes: the much better Mad Max film from a couple years back
Some movies inspire numerous alternate posters and art, often unofficial or fan art. Donnie Darko is the prime example of this phenomenon. Donnie Darko is also a truly magnificent film, in a class by itself — something The Neon Demon could only dream of. But credit must be given to the cool visuals within The Neon Demon, and the imaginations ignited by it. As with Donnie Darko, I think my favorite poster is the original (above), but I love to see what people have created; a mere sampling:
Get Out is thoroughly entertaining and just plain good — a nice surprise. I think it likely to hold up in the Top 10, even with the assumption that this year will fare much better than last. Is it on the level of another ‘get out’ story, Ex Machina from a couple years ago? Not quite. But it’s a fun, frightening feature for folks (quintuple-‘F’!!).
Now compare to that last effort by M. Night Shyamalan. No comparison, and M. Night’s been doing this for decades. It makes it all the more remarkable what Jordan Peele (yes, of Key & Peele) has accomplished. Let’s see, he wrote and starred in Keanu. The cat movie. Well-regarded, but a silly cat movie. Very next movie, Get Out. Whoa, what a turn. Much respect. Quite the way to break out of slapstick.
There are a few silly moments in Get Out, which serve nicely as comic relief. You might call them ‘audience pleasers.’ They weren’t bad at all, but hardly integrated into the larger story as deftly as the Coens or Vince Gilligan would pull off. So a little incongruity there. But no matter: I urge you to Get Out and see this movie. 8/10
Comparison Notes (all highly recommended): Being John Malkovich, Invasion films, Sound of My Voice, Martha Marcy May Marlene