Film Brief: The Old Man & the Gun

The Old Man & the Gun, possibly Robert Redford’s last picture, had some problems along with its requisite charm.  It also had a lively spirit more times than not.  A high 6/10

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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

Film Brief: Wind River

Taylor Sheridan wrote the abysmal Sicario, and the very good Hell or High Water — so perhaps it figures that Wind River, his most recent release, falls somewhere in-between.  Which is to say that it’s marginally recommended with the normal caveats.  I think Sheridan, who also directed, was maybe trying to go for a No Country for Old Men style of unraveling the mystery at hand, and utterly fell short.  But the performances were good, and I liked the way the film was resolved.

If you like Elizabeth Olsen — and how could you not — that’ll help.  6/10

PS  I’m always questioning my scale:  PT Anderson’s The Master is a movie I keep going back to.  Perhaps I need to watch it again at some point.  It’s hard to recommend Wind River only to recollect that I rendered a thumbs-down for The Master.

Lady Macbeth Doth Protest Too Little

Lady Macbeth started and ran strongly for about the first two-thirds, before running into territory that was a bit mishandled, and less than optimal even if handled perfectly.  Still though, very good and fully engrossing — and the biggest reason is the film’s star.  Adam Graham, The Detroit News:

With quiet menace, [Florence] Pugh chews through director William Oldroyd’s handsomely composed period thriller like a rat gnawing through a wall.  She’s a force to be reckoned with, and her nightmare stare lingers longer than any poor sap who dares to get in her way.

Cath Clarke, Time Out London:

This brilliantly feminist British indie film plunges a cold, sharp knife into the back of bonnet dramas.

Indeed.  A lot of (evil) fun to be had here.  Maybe think of as a companion piece to The Little Hours, which is sticking with me enough that I’m considering bumping it up a notch.  Every time I think of it I smile inside.  As for Lady Macbeth: 8/10

Comparison Notes (all recommended): Les Amants Criminels, Lars von Trier films, especially Breaking the Waves; Elizabeth (Cate Blanchett), The Last Seduction, The Housemaid, Marie Antoinette.