Film Brief: The Mule


The Mule is a little like Falling Down (1993) in slo motion.  Which is to say it’s a bit of a yawner.  There’s a definite sheen of artifice through the whole thing, and the feeling of second-rate TV drama.  In slo-mo.  I was reasonably engaged, however, in spots, and you can’t deny Clint Eastwood’s character — though even that was muted here.  5/10

Comparison Notes: The Old Man & the Gun, Breaking Bad & Better Call Saul, Fargo TV series, Hell or High Water, No Country for Old Men


5 Years for Widows — Was it worth the wait?

To produce Widows, the living director (to distinguish from the dead actor) Steve McQueen waited five years after making the best film of 2013, 12 Years a Slave.  Was that Kubrik-esque gap to foretell a film of the magnitude or gravitas of 12 Years?  Hardly.  Next to the grand 12 Years a Slave, McQueen’s latest project is a severe letdown.  The gulf between the two films is probably explained by their respective writers: McQueen for Widows, someone else for 12 Years.

But 12 Years a Slave is a high bar.  On an absolute scale, Widows is a good movie.  It has some structural issues, and the whole “heist” sequence brings the film down.  On the plus side, it features solid dramatic timbre, and there’s a good sense of watching real characters in real, desperate situations.  Lots of pluses, lots of minuses.

So, considering all the story elements, this could have been a lot worse.  Conversely, though, if those story elements are switched up, Widows comes out much higher.  6/10

VOD Log: Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead

Sidney Lumet’s last film features great performances by a top-notch cast but is structurally a mess, and does not bring much in the way of originality.  4/10



Comparison Notes (ranging from simply better to vastly superior): The Drop, Fargo, Jackie Brown, Killing Them Softly, A Simple Plan

Film Brief: American Animals

American Animals mixes actors and the real-life characters they portray in a sometimes very effective and other times distracting suboptimal way.  On top of that, the movie dragged out too much.  There’s no reason for it not to have been 30 minutes more compact.  But the performances were good and compelling, and the movie redeemed itself at the end.  The climax and immediate aftermath swung American Animals back into positive territory.  6/10

Comparison Notes: every heist film ever, Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, Bernie, Donnie Darko

Logan Lucky, but you ain’t

Four things:

1– Logan Lucky is exactly the same movie as Soderbergh’s Ocean’s Eleven, but more entertaining.

2– The so-called humor is partially Coen-esque, partially Tarantino-esque (think Django Unchained), and almost entirely non-humorous.  Best to let the Coens handle Coen-esque humor, and Tarantino Tarantino-esque humor.

3– No title is just plain lazy.

4– Not quite sure why this was marketed as a car-race movie.  It ain’t one.  Maybe they realized marketing it for what it really was (see below) was a non-starter.

Back to point one: If overly fake-a-fied heist pictures like Ocean’s Eleven are your bag, Logan Lucky is for you.  I was hoping Soderbergh would reach the heights of his Side Effects, but my aspirations were dashed.

I liked part (the good part) of Logan Lucky, and its characters, enough to raise my opinion to 5/10.

Not the Good Time you might expect

IF ONLY the filmmakers had been half as creative as the poster artist

Good Time is right up my alley — just the kind of movie I can  really get into.  If only it were any good.  Though it did hold my interest throughout, I don’t think that’s enough on its own to recommend a movie.  In many ways, Good Time seems like a film school senior project that should have been left in film school.

The entire film is rather pointless.  I kept waiting for it to reach some sort of greater level, but it didn’t.  And the flaws!  SPOILER ALERT!!  SPOILERS FOLLOW – SKIP to the next paragraph to avoid.  It’s called a dye pack for a reason.  It doesn’t just rinse off with water.  And handcuffs aren’t so easily foiled.

The many hackneyed sequences, e.g. the search at Adventureland, contribute to the sense of one gaffe after another over-running Good Time.  There was a good idea here, but it was half an idea.  That is, half as much as necessary for a whole movie.  I’m seeing a lot of this with A24 — let’s hope it improves.  5/10

Comparison Notes: recommended: Buffalo ’66; not recommended: Fruitvale Station, Room