Is Honey Boy bland or bitter?

There’s a reason the marketing for Honey Boy emphasizes the pie in the face and the big airplane crash scenes, making it seem like some quirky piece-study. I imagine test-marketing what this film is really about, an intimate study of a father and son in a less than ideal relationship where very little happens and the story is thin as a wisp, didn’t fare so well.

The irony here is that reading about Shia LaBeouf’s early life proves a much more fascinating, or at least a significantly more compelling story than the snooze-fest put on screen. Not quite sure why he had to downplay much more interesting events of his life that he’s already admitted to. Not like he’s hiding anything here.

Glenn Kenny of The Times:

One could watch “Honey Boy” musing that it must be nice to have someone finance a movie of your 12-step qualification. That assessment is actually too generous.

For such a short film (95 min), Honey Boy was draggy. Not terribly so, but there’s little story here. Another breaking of the Tomatometer. 4/10

Comparison Notes: Maybe two opposites: Fences and The Firm. The Firm is a movie, also with great acting, in which stuff actually happens. A stretchy comparison note, I know. Also: Mid 90sBlue Valentine, Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot, Boyhood

Claim You Were Never Really Here. I wish I could.

You Were Never Really Here reminds me of Good Time from last year: a little indie that, with the first scenes and through the intro title, I thought: YES!  This is GOOD… often you know immediately when a movie is going to be good.   But with one punch then another and another, a left hook and a right jab, you realize how bad it’s going to be.

Not showing every last detail and letting the imagination fill in the gaps can be a very effective means of storytelling.  The best examples are Fargo and American Psycho.  But when that’s the whole film — random dead people left and right, real and imagined, it just goes to show how little an idea the filmmaker has.  Of how little a story there is.  Of trying to substitute style for substance.

It all goes back to a theme I keep pounding away at: the power of linear storytelling.  More often than not, when a filmmaker goes highly non-linear, they are compensating for the lack of a good story.   Not that You Were… is all that nonlinear.  It’s just bad.  I blame it on Amazon.  3/10

Comparison Notes: The infinitely better Thelma comes to mind.  When the movie resorts to bodies floating in water for no good reason whatsoever, you realize you’ve hit bottom.

Film Brief: Wonder Wheel

Wonder Wheel has some nice attributes, but probably skip it unless you’re a die-hard Woody Allen fan.  The rhythm and cadence familiar to WA moviewatchers is there, but the story is not particularly original or deep.  The “Mapping” I wrote of earlier is definitely employed again here.

I blame Amazon Studios for the the shortcomings of this film, not WA.  Marginal thumbs-down with the standard caveats.  5/10

Film Brief: Last Flag Flying

I liked these very good veteran actors, especially Steve Carell.  But the story was way too thin, without enough of anything else to make up the difference.  Good intentions only go so far.

Titles MIA for no good reason drag on the first 30 minutes of a movie that needs all the help it can get.  For this I blame Amazon.  So… Another fail by Linklater, but the endearing performances keep Last Flag Flying afloat at 5/10.

From Iran: The Salesman

If you cross House of Sand and Fog with Prisoners and watching paint dry in Tehran, you might end up with something like The Salesman.  This movie won the best foreign film Oscar, which completes the Academy’s trifecta of totally blowing it for the 2016 season.

Critics adored this film and the director’s last U.S. release, About Elly.  The Salesman was marginally more interesting than About Elly, but both offer more proof of critical praise based on political correctness.  And movies from Iran, I suppose, are still such a novelty that anything must be good in the critics’ eyes.

If one took this exact same movie, set in Chicago or Tallahassee and in English, critics would be screaming about how bad it is.  An oddity I noticed on this one: careless errors in the subtitling.  Amazon Studios really phoned it in on that.

The Tomatometer is so wide of the mark on foreign films generally, and especially thosethe-salesman-text-block of this director, that I’m done with these type of recommendations, at least until such time that a trailer really grabs the hell out of me.  I found The Salesman to be gutless and uninspired.  Beyond that, obvious implausibilities weigh on the story.  A bit of effective drama toward the end raises it to 4/10.

Film Brief: Manchester by the Sea

Manchester by the Sea — especially in the early going — is as clunky as its title.  Poorly executed flashbacks, a bane of cinema, and a general lack of mastery behind the lens greatly hinder the picture.  Yet from these inauspicious roots a strong story, held together by solid performances, pans out.

No doubt this will be one of the dozen or so pictures nominated as best of the year; for me: good but not great.  7/10

Comparison Notes (recommended): My Name Is Joe, Crazy Heart