Who’s the Beast

Beast had me well intrigued for most of the going, but the final third was a muddling disappointment.  Or put another way, I liked this movie until I didn’t.  The concluding scenes are not so clever or original as I think the filmmakers, and most critics, believed them to be.  I will grant that the romance at the center is compelling.  A marginal thumbs-down; 5/10

Comparison Notes: the much to infinitely better: Lady Macbeth, Side Effects, Ex Machina, Under the Skin, Thelma, The Box

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Twin Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Part I: The Rider

A couple critics on the RT circuit hailed the “poetry” of The Rider.  I’m not sure how poetic it is.  But it’s good.  The plot development is lacking, but the film’s strength lies in its characters.  The performances, and then the movie as a whole, is as realistic as you will ever see in a non-documentary film.  There is a poetry in that, of a sort — but I don’t think that’s what the critics are talking about.  With characters this engaging, the characters ARE the story.  But still, I need more cowbell.  Or more story.  One of those two.

The scenes of horse training are engaging, even fascinating.  OK, maybe even poetic.

I recommend The Rider, but with all the caveats as if it were a 6.  Watch the trailer, then understand this is not a rosy picture.  If you still think you’d like it, go for it and you shouldn’t be disappointed.

7/10

Note: Part II will be Lean on Pete, if I can get a decent showtime, which looks highly unlikely.

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.

VOD Log: Brigsby Bear

Early parts of Brigsby Bear looked like a badly-executed, very narrow corollary to Room — and I was thinking it headed for contention as worst of the year.  Soon enough, however, Brigsby Bear turns into a sweetly endearing and entertaining film.  There’s still too much suspension of belief required, but the movie doesn’t let you dwell on it — which is the same that could be said about the missing titles.

Brigsby Bear was yet another barely-shown yet marketed film.  In this case, it wasn’t a whole lot to miss — but that’s beside the point.  This will be the last one before my 2017 list; the remaining two are A Cure for Wellness and The Blackcoat’s Daughter.  I’ll let you know if I ever get round to watching those.

A nice surprise-bonus of Brigsby Bear: Mark Hamill is a good actor!  6/10

Comparison Notes: Recommended: The Wolfpack, The Disaster Artist, Short Term 12, Sling Blade, Superbad, Butter; Not Recommended: The Book of Henry, Captain Fantastic, Life is Beautiful

VOD Log: A Ghost Story

I’ll start with a side note.  I saw the trailer for A Ghost Story about three times, I think two of which were at an AMC.  And then the local AMCs collectively failed to ever show the film, or if they did it was for no more than a week or a day.  When it was still showing in theaters outside my area, e.g. in LA, I went to one of the main AMCs to watch another film and was surprised to see a super-sized lobby cardboard poster display for the film.  I inquired about it, and was told there were no plans to show the film.

A theater showing trailers and setting large promotional items on display for a movie seems only to make sense if said theater will at some point show the movie.  But that’s indicative of numerous areas of mismanagement on the part of AMC.  I went to a film lately and a couple of the seats had such a strong fecal odor I moved.

* * *

I point out the AMC nonsense above because I felt like A Ghost Story, starring consummate actors Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara, was one of the more significant indies of the year, and given short shrift by the cinemas.  Nonetheless, I was determined to watch it to consider among the films of 2017, so I did something that is rare for me these days: saw it at home.

The movie is intriguing, and certainly compelling — but falls short of providing that grand a-ha moment.  In other words, I liked it despite a thin story.  7/10

* * *

Note: This film is presented in a square (1.33:1) frame with rounded corners, for no particularly obvious or excellent reason.  An affectation, perhaps, but in this case it does not distract from the movie — unlike in American Honey.  I like a lot that A24 Films does, but the square frame trend I hope can be put to rest.

Comparison Notes: Recommended: To The Wonder; Not Recommended: Ain’t Them Bodies Saints (previous project with Affleck and Mara)

Get Lucky!

Besides the fact that this guy is really old, there’s not a lot going on here.  But the old guy is Harry Dean Stanton, and I like him.  Seeing some other old timers was nice too.  The script is too full of contrived pontificating, but there is sweetness as well.  6/10

PS The director apparently has no direct familial relation to David Lynch.

Comparison Notes (recommended): Nebraska, The Straight Story, Bagdad Cafe

Film Brief: Patti Cake$

I wouldn’t call it an “unambiguous joy,” as did the oft-overstated Manohla Dargis, but I did like it.  Jake Coyle, AP:

The Sundance sensation “Patti Cake$” may flow with formulaic beats but it’s got spirit for miles (eight of them, at least) and features one of the best mother-daughter relationships of the year.

I would have liked Patti Cake$ more had the music, in this case the rap, been more effective on me — only one track swayed me.  Call it a minor case of the Inside Llewyn Davis Syndrome.  Still though, on the high side of 6/10.

Comparison Notes (recommended): 8 Mile