Critical MeMe

Time spent watching films, even crappy ones, is time well-spent.

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Location: Missouri, United States
    These aren't comments on ALL of the movies through which I've cried, yawned, laughed, and rolled my eyes, but just about everything I've seen since early 2002 is here plus a few from earlier. Post dates reflect my screening & parenthetical dates are the year of US release (aka Oscar eligibility).
    Yeah, a movie review blog isn't very original. But originality is overrated. Just ask Michael Bay.

7/03/2017

Paterson (2016)

Paterson has a routine. He wakes up between 6 and 6:30 next to his beautiful girlfriend (who continues sleeping), eats cereal at the kitchen counter, walks to work, writes a bit of poetry in his notebook, starts up the bus he drives, eavesdrops on riders' conversations, eats lunch, drives some more, walks home, straightens the perpetually leaning mailbox in front of his tiny house, eats the dinner prepared by his girlfriend while giving an ear to her latest aspiration and/or complimenting her newest art project, takes the dog for a walk, and stops off at the local pub for his one beer on the way home.

I liked Paterson. A lot. But I didn't like his silly girlfriend and I got the feeling that he didn't like her as much as he thought he did, either. Maybe I was just projecting; I mean, she obviously wanted to please him and encouraged him in his poetry and expressed pride in him, all of which were reciprocated. But there was something that made me feel as though he was viewing her as more of an exotic pet than as an equal. I saw her as basically the second coming of Fabienne -- Bruce Willis' girlfriend in Pulp Fiction -- but with several hobbies. His feedback to her was always one of patience rather than true admiration or even annoyance. He seemed to experience a deeper connection with two fellow poets met by chance: a young girl he stops to keep company as she waits for her mother and a Japanese tourist who joins him on a bench.

There is beauty in Paterson's world, to be sure -- but I wished that he had a partner with whom he could truly share that beauty.

B-

7/01/2017

The Debt (2011)

In 1965, three Mossad agents were tasked with finding, capturing, and delivering for trial a Nazi doctor accused of war crimes against the Jewish people during the war. Though the mission didn't play out as planned, the three have been hailed as heroes at home for more than 30 years. In 1997, a book detailing their story is being published.

The flashback portion of the story is an exciting one. It's when we come to the present that things slow down considerably. All in all, it's successful with a side of frustration.

B

The Last Word (2017)

Harriet is a miserable control freak who passes along her misery to pretty much everyone she meets. She's also depressed and suicidal, but realizes -- almost too late -- that if she doesn't commission her obituary before she dies, she won't be able to control what's in it. Enter Anne the drifting-through-life obituary clerk.

If you saw the trailers (and probably even if you didn't), there are zero surprises here. Anne can't write a good obituary because Harriet isn't a good person. Harriet decides to become someone who will be missed and manages that feat in the space of about a month.

You know, I don't always hate predictability -- if there's heart and some good performances, it can be almost comforting (see Danny Collins). This, however, was just clumsy. It also had a sassy child in it who can't act for beans. But she sure is a cute little firecracker! Ugh.

D

6/30/2017

Baby Driver (2017)

The first thing we see, even before the movie has begun, is Edgar Wright, the writer director, thanking us for coming to the theater to see his film because it's made for the big screen. And wow. Is it ever. I think we could've enjoyed this on the couch, but the experience definitely would've been diminished.

We start off with a bang -- a heist and getaway soundtracked to The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion's Bellbottoms. We find out soon enough that the driver (Baby) finds an appropriate tune for all of his jobs and this movie knows how to make the music a necessary part of the action. Gunfire becomes percussion and a walk down the street becomes a dance.

As we were driving home, I wondered aloud how long the script might have been. Eight pages, maybe? But it doesn't matter that the dialogue was light -- it was an experience that never dipped in entertainment. I didn't think car chases were my thing, but when they're this inventive and allow me to actually see what the cars are doing and where they're going? Yeah, they're my thing.

B+

6/25/2017

Anomalisa (2016)

Michael is a famous self-help author on a business trip to Cincinnati. He's depressed to the point that all of the people around him look and sound the same. He calls home to let his wife know he's gotten in safely, and her voice is the same bland and bored one we've heard coming from several dozen others by this point. When he hears a unique voice outside his closed hotel door, he runs to find its source and meets Lisa -- an unremarkable person except for the fact that her face and voice can be recognized as different. So, he excitedly courts her only to witness her loss of uniqueness -- morphing into the same bland mask and voice the rest of the world shares.

There are a couple of theories about the meaning of this movie. For example, the name of the hotel (Fregoli) is the name of a mental delusion where one believes several people can be the same person adopting disguises. Michael also mistakenly visits a sex toy shop and purchases an antique wind up doll for his son -- and the doll has some damage on her face in the same area that Lisa has some scarring. So, maybe all of this is in his mind? I don't really know.

I think there could be a deep, effective story here, but you have to slog through so much to get to to that, it hardly feels worth it. Also, Michael's feels irredeemably selfish -- e.g. when Lisa advises him that if he's going to leave his family he should let his son know it's not because of him and Michael corrects her to say that the son IS part of the reason he's leaving -- so that it was truly difficult to care.

D+

6/24/2017

Split (2017)

Three girls are abducted and held by a man with Disassociative Identity Disorder: sometimes he's a terrifying neat freak, sometimes a solicitous British woman, and sometimes an eager-to-please young boy. One of the girls tries to escape & it doesn't work. Another tries to escape & it doesn't work either. Etc.

I'd heard that this was the Shyamalan "comeback" and that there's a truly surprising twist -- neither of which wound up being true. Yeah, there was a tiny bit at the end that gave M. Night's fans a bit of a nod, but that's it.

Now here's MY idea of what would've been a good twist and, also, what I truly thought was going to happen because it's such an obviously awesome idea (spoiler alert): OK. We were told a few times during the story that those who've suffered to the point of having split personalities may have actually tapped into some supernatural powers. Since we witnessed, via flashback, that Casey -- the last girl standing -- has definitely suffered both traumatic loss and abuse, why not have her split at the time of crisis? The beast is threatening her and, instead of being spared for her scars, an alter should've "taken the light" to protect HER. So simple. So cool. Yeah, yeah -- I enjoyed seeing Bruce as much as the next Unbreakable fan, but my ending's way better. And Bruce could've still tacked on the coda.

C+ 

6/23/2017

No Men Beyond This Point (2016)

Women are conceiving “fatherless children” and giving birth to only girls. The men are being subdued in sanctuaries and basically waiting to go extinct.

There are a lot of great bits here: that the military was immediately disbanded once women started taking control of government, for example. But it kind of undoes itself by focusing on the “youngest man in the world” and an artist falling in love. Why? Oh -- I see: because it was written and directed by a man.

C

6/15/2017

Central Intelligence (2016)

In high school, Dwayne Johnson was the chubby loser & Kevin Hart was the golden boy who was also the only one who showed kindness to young Johnson. Twenty years later, though, things have changed. Dwayne’s still weird, but he’s BUFF and has a cool job. Hart has become an unfulfilled accountant constantly being passed over for promotion. Though he has a smokin' wife, she thinks they need therapy. When Johnson shows up in need of help, Hart is sucked into madcap action and so are we.

It’s fun, but not as fun as I hoped it’d be. There was nothing distinctive about it at all -- it was like so many other jokey "hey look over there" films. At least the two leads are charming as hell.

C+