Film Brief: Thoroughbreds

Going into Thoroughbreds, I thought it would be little more than an update on Heathers, styled to the tastes of contemporary youth, and set with a bevy of up-and-coming starlets to match.  Luckily, there’s a little more to it than that.  Whenever you have good strong characters, or at least characters with attitude portrayed well, half the work is done.  Characters make up for a lot, in this case a story that is hardly original.

In other words,  Thoroughbreds is entertaining but less than great.  7/10

Comparison Notes (all recommended, and better): The Housemaid, La Cérémonie, Heathers, Fletch

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Annihilation: Sci-Fi Gone Awry

Annihilation, with a meaningless adultery side-story that figures into the main plot not in the slightest, brought back another off-track sci-fi film, Lucy.  I was going to say that at least there was no odd “Wild Kingdom” theme in Annihilation, but in a sense you could say there was.

The movie held my interest fairly well, and was a lot better than the similar Arrival, but boy what a disappointment for the writer-director of Ex Machina.  A HUGE leap backwards.  And now, a week later, I’ve mused on how corny it largely was, and worse, how unoriginal.  But, if you like the nutty imaginings of puerile set decorators mixing up animal and plant forms, Annihilation might be for you.

The ultimate failure here is a clear understanding of the very alien presence one is trying to articulate.  Failure to understand something — anything — yourself makes it impossible to communicate to others.

There’s a theme out there — apparently began by one of the film’s producers — that the comparative box office failure of Annihilation is due to it being too intellectual.  Puh-leease!  Must be the same folks who thought Arrival was “thoughtful.”  When you get right down to it, and especially considering the ridiculous conclusion: this movie is just plain stupid, and egregiously slapped together.  4/10

Comparison Notes: Life, Lucy, The Mist, The Ruins, Alien, a dozen or so episodes of Star Trek, the TV series Lost, Jurassic Park

Film Brief: Double Lover

At first, I loved Double Lover.  In the early going especially, the storytelling was strong, driven by the leads’ performances.  But the story was uneven, eventually falling into a derivative doppelgänger tale crossed with silly, even absurd, David Cronenberg-esque elements.  David Lynch has proven to be the master of the doppelgänger / film as soufflé .  A key to his success is that he doesn’t belabor the point.  The doppelgänger isn’t the story itself, as it was with Double Lover.  For Lynch, it’s almost incidental to the larger story at hand.

As the doppelgänger elements were mishandled here, a better tack would have been more the approach displayed in Thelma.  That is, the approach of a better movie.  5/10

Comparison Notes: Vertigo, Cronenberg films, Mulholland Drive + other Lynch projects.

Dinner and a Game Night at the movies

Lets play a game, of sorts.  A guessing game.  Why does Mark have a blog?  Roger Ebert.com, in no way speaking as Roger Ebert would have, and, further, very much sallying his name, is generally in agreement with the Rotten Tomatoes consensus:

…a raucously funny film that has a knack for going right up to the edge of nastiness.

WRONG!  I was actually enjoying Game Night, if mildly, until the latter third or so when it bounced between implausibility and trite stupidity.  Lesser critics describe it as edgy; they haven’t any idea what true edginess is.

So what started off nicely in thumbs-up territory devolved into yet another silly pseudo-crime action flick with overly contrived “plot twists” and inane action sequences involving, for instance, airplanes that never get off the ground when attempting takeoff.  The best part of the film by far: Jesse Plemons (Fargo season 2)  If there is any reason to see Game Night, it is the hilariously creepy Jesse Plemons.  5/10

Comparison Notes: Recommended: Due Date, Neighbors; no opinion: Date Night